Recently, I was reminded of a post I wrote a few years ago on Separation Anxiety. It’s always fun to reread these posts to see where my thoughts were at that point and how they have changed or stayed the same.
In the post I wrote:
Typically, when we think about separation anxiety we think about the child. We think about the tears, tantrums and the vice-like grip they have on your leg making it impossible to leave. It is understandable why the child does not want you to leave, it represents change in their routine or change in the norm of what they have become accustomed to. However, children are single-threaded. What I mean by that is that once they have adjusted to the “new” environment they are completely in that new moment. This is evident when you come to pick your child up. You may have left them crying for you, but now they do not want to leave because they are enjoying the environment they are in.
Most parents can attest to having this experience. It is heart-wrenching to leave a child who is having a difficult time and doesn’t want you to go. We try to soothe them with extra hugs and kisses or distract them with toys or a special snack, but many times it just doesn’t work. I can’t tell you the number of times I had to walk away, leaving my child crying in the arms of the teacher, feeling heartless and devastated for causing my child so much pain.
Change is hard no matter what your age is. We are living in a time where we have separated from our old routines. What was “normal” last year at this time has been turned upside down. We have been forced to look at every facet of our lives from a different perspective.
We are about six months in and by now have gotten over the initial shock of all this change. It is tempting to find a way to go back to what was comfortable. By retreating to what we once knew, we could try to stop the tears, pain and discomfort we’ve been feeling around all this uncertainty.
However, when our children experience separation anxiety when we leave them with a teacher, babysitter, or grandparent, we know the pain of the separation is necessary. As hard as it is to watch their tears, we know we are fostering their independence. We are teaching them to embrace unfamiliar situations with curiosity. We are showing them there is more to life than what is comfortable and known. We are fostering the skills they will need to face challenges for the rest of their lives. We are giving them the opportunity to learn more about the person they are going to become.
“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end. ……. It’s all a process, steps along a path. Becoming requires equal parts patience and rigor. Becoming is never giving up on the idea that there’s more growing to be done.”
― Michelle Obama, Becoming
Too often we think that we have arrived, our work is done. This quote from Michelle Obama's book Becoming, reminds us our work is never done. We keep becoming. We keep growing. We keep changing. We think separation anxiety ends when the crying tantrums stop, but it doesn’t, the feelings just go within.
Separation anxiety never ends and that’s a good thing. It stretches us from our comfort zone. It provides us with a choice – will we stay the same or will we try something new? Will we stay locked in our beliefs or will we explore a new point of view?
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Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.