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Separation anxiety and how to deal with it

dealing with separation anxiety separation anxiety settling-in sessions Jul 08, 2022

Separation anxiety is the emotion that a child feels when they are separated from someone who they have established a strong emotional connection with. This most often is their primary caregiver such as their mum or dad but it can be a brother or sister and even a friend.

Children at any age can experience separation anxiety and it is a totally normal experience for a child to have when they say goodbye to someone they are close to. Usually, separation anxiety is seen in the form of crying, tantrums, high-pitched screaming, and clinginess to their parents when the parents are just about to leave.

How to deal with separation anxiety
Let the process of the child saying goodbye to their parents be as normal as possible. Let them give their parent a kiss and cuddle goodbye as the parents leave and let them close the door with you while waving to the parent.

Discuss with the parent before the booking that if it is likely that their child will cry when they leave the house that you are capable of dealing with the crying and it is totally normal so there is no need for them to come running back to their child to console them as this will only make matters worse and prolong them going out.

If a parent has advised you that there might be crying when they leave then suggest to the parent that it might be helpful if they book you to arrive at least 30 minutes before they are due to leave the house so that there is no sudden handover and rush for the parent to leave as this can make children feel very unsettled triggering an emotional outburst from the child. This also allows you to bond for 30 minutes with the child whilst the parents are getting ready to go out.

As a babysitter, you can feel that maybe their crying is a result of the child not liking you but this is not the case at all. This is a totally normal response amongst anxious children and in the majority of the cases, the child is back to their normal self after about 20 - 30 minutes. If however, the child continues to be very unsettled then don't be afraid to contact the parents to ask what they would like you to do. If it continues they might want to come home early or they might be happy for their child to just cry it out.

Always be prepared at the start of a booking, it might be that you have a toy puppet, a favorite book, some pictures, or even food to act as a distraction tactic when the parent leaves just in case you are faced with some separation anxiety from the child. Make sure you let the child know that they are going to have lots of fun with you and explain that their parent will be back soon. Share with the children what the plan for the booking will be so they have an idea of the fun things they can look forward to during the booking.

There is also the option of booking a settling-in session with the parent for a subsequent booking if the child is still inconsolable during the booking with you. In this way, the child will learn to get used to their parent going away and coming back again whilst the parent is still in the home, albeit in the room next door.  To learn more about settling-in sessions check out the blog post here.

Do you have any other solutions to deal with a child experiencing separation anxiety? If you do we would love to hear from you at [email protected]

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