“Bye bye Matt!” I said.
“Ma! Ma! Maaaa!” Matt replied, urgently reaching his arms to me. This ended with a loud cry that sounded like he got his heart broken.
But the truth is that it’s my heart that breaks when this parting scene happens every morning, from Mondays to Fridays, whenever I go to work.
I’d love to scoop him into a tight embrace and tell him that I won’t go to work anymore – that we’ll just watch Barney or Mickey Mouse again and again and again, that we’ll just play basketball the whole day. or that we’ll just sing and play his guitar and drums until we get tired.
At times, I’m tempted to cry in response to his cry for Mama. Most of the time though, I just put on a smile, tell Matt that I love him and that I’ll be back in the evening, and then walk away.
Off to work, with Matt’s cries ringing in my ears.
It was also like this with my eldest son, Tantan, when he was Matt’s age. I know it’s normal for toddlers to have separation anxiety, but it doesn’t lessen the pressure and the pain I feel every time I have to leave for work.
What do you do, then? I’ve compiled 5 things that have helped me deal with separation anxiety in my kids.
- Remind yourself that this is normal. Ask other Mamas out there, and they’ll most likely have stories to tell about their kids’ separation anxiety.
- Say goodbye. I know of parents and even grandparents who would sneak out to avoid the tears and tantrums. But this will only make them think that you can disappear anytime, thus worsening their separation anxiety.
- Don’t make goodbye’s dramatic. Oh, how they’ll cry, and throw their toys, and even push away their babysitter. But don’t linger. Say goodbye, tell them you love them, and go.
- They’ll be okay five minutes after you leave. The guilt and pain you feel for leaving your child may linger the whole day, but trust me, he is already laughing and watching Barney a few minutes after you left.
- This is just a phase. Your toddler will outgrow the separation anxiety he has now. When he’s around 2 1/2 to 3 years old, there won’t be any crying when you leave for work.
I hope these things will also help you deal with your child’s separation anxiety. The best thing to note in all these is that separation anxiety only means that you have created a wonderful bond with your child. He just doesn’t understand yet that this bond will never be broken even though you are away from each other.
How about you? How do you cope with separation anxiety?