Separation Anxiety: A Parent’s guide to surviving time away from the kids.

A 5-Step Formula for reducing the severity of separation anxiety.

Surely the majority of parents in the world have at some point had to deal with Separation Anxiety. The screaming and the crying, the clinging and the tugging, the desperate cries and the begging to ‘Please stay’ and thats just the parents! Imagine how much harder it is when you add in the separation anxiety of the children. But that’s a whole other blog article (most likely someone elses). I want to talk to you about Parental Separation Anxiety, an all too often overlooked issue.

Have you ever just been so desperate for ‘time away’, for a ‘break’ from your kids, for ‘me time’, only to be smacked down with separation anxiety? You long for just an hour or two to sit in a chair without jumping up to rescue a toddler who thinks he can fly, or to clean up the babies spew before he decides to eat it again. You hunger for a meal that you get to eat while it’s still warm or for some long overdue romantic time with the other half but even the thought of leaving your little ones for a short time, causes your heart rate to increase and your palms to start perspiring.

What is it that makes us crave space yet fear it at the same time? Love, lets just call it Love. We love our children too much. They drive us crazy but we can’t get enough of their adorable little personalities that remind us so much of ourselves and our partners. We need separation but at the same time we struggle to be away from them, worrying if they are okay without us, if they are lonely, scared or anxious or if the person/s looking after them are as capable as we are. It’s an all too common dilemma facing many parents and it only increases, the more kids you have.

So how can this problem be overcome? How can we gain the rest and space from our kids that we need without creating more anxiety within us which can lead to long-term issues such as the ‘overbearing parent syndrome’ and the condition known as the ’embarrassing grandparent’? After having 5 children, three of which are now teenagers, I have learnt a few things about how to reduce the stress of separation anxiety when spending time away from my precious offspring. Here are 5 helpful steps you can take to lessen the strain on yourself and your children.

  1. Don’t go out for too long. If the idea of spending long periods of time away from your children is enough to send you sprinting into a corner and taking up the fetal position then start with short breaks. 10 minutes here and there, stretching it out to 20 minutes after a few weeks and working your way up to a couple of hours. This should only take you 6 months or so and make the transition that much easier.
  2. Spend half an hour saying goodbye. Nothing says “I love you” more than a long goodbye. Your child will be well and truly confident in your devotion to them if you spend a large amount of time fussing over them and making sure they know you really don’t want to leave them but have to for your sanity’s sake. They will be all the more excited about your return also.
  3. Call incessantly. Everyone has a phone these days, use it! Call or text at least every 10-20 minutes to check in and make sure everyone is still alive, babysitters and grandparents love this and your mind will be put at ease.
  4. Don’t have too many children. One surefire way to reduce the amount of separation anxiety you suffer is to have less children. Stop after 2 or 3, the risk of separation anxiety increases with the amount of offspring, so less is best.
  5. Never let your children leave the house without you. Separation anxiety can strike at anytime, not just when you leave them but when they leave you. Whether they are simply hanging with friends after school or starting their first job, just say no! The more independence they have, the more time they will want to spend outside of your company. This will only lead to greater anxiety and what’s known as the ’empty nest syndrome’. Avoid this at all costs, even if you have to home school them and restrict their access to driving lessons, bicycles and public transport.

You may never eradicate separation anxiety from your home completely but it’s quite easy to reduce it if you know how. This 5 step formula will have you relaxing and enjoying limited amounts of time away from your kids without putting undue stress on you or your children. For more helpful tips and entertaining articles, follow our blog at http://www.mumlifestories.com or send us a story of your own to mumlifestories@gmail.com

~ Jo Stewart

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