No Separation Anxiety? Advice for Parents When Children Don’t Cry
Recently, I reposted my article about how to handle your child’s separation anxiety (http://tinyurl.com/mbyd6lu). I received feedback from several people asking for advice when parents will not leave their children until the children cry. It sounds unlikely on paper but it does happen. In more than 15 years of working with young children, I have witnessed several versions of this scenario. I’ve seen parents over talk the situation – repeatedly telling their children not to cry until they do. I’ve seen caregivers and parents keep the children in the hallway until they cry rather than encouraging them to enter the room while they were calm. I’ve seen adults tell the teacher that the child will cry while the child is standing there and so it happens. Knowing that the requests for advice are valid, I searched on the internet for articles about lack of separation anxiety. I found nothing. And so I offer you and the parents you encounter, the following:
Even when your children don’t cry, they miss you. Children who are less anxious and more able to separate from you still ask for you, draw pictures of you and make things for you. The words “Mommy” and “Daddy” (or other words for their caregivers) are some of the most used words in a preschool classroom. You are never far from their thoughts. We hear all about parents all the time. We spend our days answering children’s questions about when Mommy is coming back. Different children express their separation differently. Please leave your smiling child knowing that he/she is thinking about you.
When your children don’t cry, you aren’t being rejected. Parents spend a lot of time shopping for a preschool. Parents want their children to feel comfortable and happy and when they do, some parents feel a bit rejected. I’ve had parents say, “Look – he likes it here better than home” and “She’d rather be here than with me.” While that is a compliment to my early learning center, I recognize that there is an undertone of parental separation issues. Watching your children become more independent isn’t easy. It is, however, our job as parents to spend 18 years making our children independent and ready to leave us. Encourage your child’s bravery. That will lay a foundation for confidence in the years to come.
When your children don’t cry and you are sad, remember that is about you. Your child is fine but you are not. It will happen repeatedly. You may feel that way when separation anxiety isn’t an issue in preschool. You may feel overwhelming sadness when your child runs onto the school bus on the first day of kindergarten. I’m fairly certain I was sadder than my son when I took him to college for the first time. That is all about me. Time is passing. My children don’t need me in the same way that they did. My mother once told me, “When they go, it is as it should be and for that you should be grateful.” I think of that sentence often and have repeated it to many parents who have felt the passage of time and the shift in their children’s needs.
Whether your children cry or not, carefully consider the messages you want to give them. A part of helping children with social/emotional development is carefully considering the messages our actions send to our children. When parents linger and look unsure at school drop off, the message to the children becomes “I don’t think you will be fine.” When parents smile, say goodbye and go, the message to the children is “I know you can do this.” Is there anything more powerful than when our parents believe in us?
Parenting is a busy job. It is also emotional and complex. Take the time to reflect on your actions, reactions and the goals for your children. You may want to know they miss you today but at what price?
Cindy Terebush, Early Education Consultant & Speaker