Help for child that struggles to leave or be left
Does your child struggle to leave you or have you leave them?
You're definitely not the only one. My 7 year old struggles with this and my now 18 year old struggled with social anxiety which is a constant problem when leaving the house.
These next few weeks I will be sharing with you specific examples of anxiety and how it can present itself in our children in sneaky ways. I will also give you principles that can offer solutions that have been therapist reviewed and recommended.
If you need to, please refer to the previous blog post. I talked about Worry Monsters (an interesting and helpful way to talk to kids about anxiety.)
Fear of leaving or being left
Does your child generally have good experiences away from home? I assume they are always left in safe, loving places where their general needs are met. But are they terrified to be without you or away from home? Do they freeze up or break down in these situations? Do they ask you to give them "one more hug" or "stay just one more minute"? Do you find yourself saying "Everything is fine.", "It will be a great day!", "This isn't a big deal." over and over again? Do they seem totally incapable of making it without you?
Yep, that's most likely anxiety. It is terrifying for both child and parent. The child truly believes there is a huge threat to them leaving or being left and the parent seriously questions their child's ability to survive because they are so freaked out. I've been here. A lot.
What do we do when our child is freaking out?
Repeating actions that our child asks us to do or that we feel we need to do to calm them down can generally be called neutralizers. These actions (repeated hugs, repeated words or phrases that ensure nothing bad will happen, doing anything out of the normal routine) can actually make things worse. For more info on this refer to my Talking to Your Anxious Child Download.
Instead of using neutralizers before they head into school, plan to give each other one hug goodbye and then you could say something encouraging like “I'm so proud of you for being brave.”
Make a plan with your child beforehand that is both supportive and appropriate. Then STICK TO IT! Remember that by not reassuring your child and seemingly abandoning them you are actually empowering them to do the things they love and need to do...on their own.
It will take work and will be difficult, but it will get easier.