I have four-year-old twins, one boy and one girl. My boy has been on the struggle bus hard lately. He has had a lot of feelings that little kids shouldn’t have to worry about. He’s been scared, anxious, worried, and even angry. He expresses worry about death and about whether or not mommy and daddy will come home. He’s had major separation anxiety, mostly with leaving me to go to school. We have tried narrowing down the trigger to this behavior, it could be the fact that I recently had surgery or that his dad was on an outage at work and was gone from home more than usual. He panics, he screams, kicks, hits, and you cannot get through to him when it happens, he looks right through you. I’m not sure if we will ever know the root cause but we’ve been trucking through life trying to do what’s best for him. Here are some things that have worked for us, if you are struggling with this, maybe they can help you too!
I’ve started to prepare early for things happening in the near future. If I am going to a mom’s night out or even just to the store, I prepare him. We made a visual calendar for our weekly schedules, like what days we have school, daddy has work, what days mommy works, and when our extracurricular activities are. He moves the frame each day and it gives him some say in what’s going on and also prepares him for things so that he is ready when they come around. He likes to know ALL the things!
Letting Him have Control
I feel like he struggles with not having control of the things around him. He can’t control whether or not he goes to school or if/when daddy goes to work and he can’t control when mommy sometimes has to leave him. But there are lots of things, I can let him have control of and I’ve made it a point to give him that control! He can decide what he eats, so with each meal, he gets a choice. Sometimes I offer two things at breakfast and he can choose which one he wants, I also ask him what he wants to bring for lunch at school. For dinner, he eats what we cook, but I let him choose what snack he wants after or what plate he wants to eat on. I make him feel involved. Another thing that I give him some control with is what he wears. Lately, he’s in a phase where he wants to wear “work” clothes like his daddy does. So every day, he wears button-downs and slacks and his “church shoes” or his favorite cowboy boots. It’s literally the sweetest thing ever. If work clothes help him face the day and be brave enough to leave mommy, then work clothes it is. I will be sad when this phase leaves.
My sweet boy has always been a handful, since birth, but he also has the sweetest heart that anyone has ever had. He thrives from positive affirmations. He needs to know that I am proud of him. He needs to hear that he’s a big boy and that I love him no matter what. I recently have made it a point to tell him these things and I am sorry I haven’t done it before because it has literally made ALLL the difference.
Time outs, yelling and even spankings have never worked with this boy. Those things have always amped him up and caused everyone to go down a long, spiraling, out-of-control road! He is also not a child that enjoys television or tablets. He is an outside, dirt, tractor, and monster truck lovin’ dude! So taking away tv just didn’t do anything. Again, I’ve done plenty of research and even talked to her pediatrician on how to get a handle on this separation anxiety and our behavior issues that stem from said anxiety. The pediatrician suggested positive reinforcement. He said instead of telling him, “if you cry when you leave mommy, you won’t get to go outside!” Tell him, “if you are a big boy and don’t cry when it’s time to leave mommy, we can go for a walk after school.” This advice Changed. My. Life. He is a different child with positive rewards instead of negative ones!
A Great School
This has been key for us during this process. He goes to a wonderful school with teachers that are all placed where God intended them to be. They are so loving and encouraging to my baby and they are also supportive to me. They make sure I know he is fine after drop off, if we have a bad morning where there are tears or when he doesn’t want to get out of the car. They are kind, patient, and loving and I’m not sure they know just how much they’ve helped us through this stage. It’s one of the toughest things I’ve gone through as a mother. It’s so hard to make your child leave you when they are panicked, screaming, and crying because they are scared. Our school has helped me to know I am leaving him in good hands. They reassure me and him and they truly care about his well-being.
Separation Anxiety is hard. It’s tricky and can be heartbreaking for everyone involved. If your child is struggling, know that it does get better. It’s going to take lots of effort and work on your part as a parent and there will still be plenty of days that don’t go as planned but stick with it and do what works for you and your child.