You’re Not Alone: Managing Separation Anxiety Together

To be safe and to feel safe, even when you’re apart. That’s all a parent wants for their child—especially in their foundational early years. Though entirely normal, separation anxiety can be a big challenge for kindergarten-aged children, and their parents! If you’re preparing your child for kindy or thinking about their transition to school in the years to come, know that you’re not alone.

Here’s what you need to know about managing separation anxiety.

Why does separation anxiety happen?

Most simply described as the fear of being separated from their parents or carers (1), separation anxiety can be a common part of development in little ones. Your child might cry more, cling more tightly to you, have a fear of strangers or just feel generally worried when you’re not around. Even if you separate from your child for a short time—whether you leave them with known or new people, in familiar or unfamiliar environments—you can experience the challenges of separation anxiety.

Starting from the age of about six months, separation anxiety often reaches its peak when toddlers are 14–18 months old. Though it’s likely only a phase, it can feel like forever for the families who experience it. And, it often becomes most challenging as children navigate their early learning and kindergarten journeys.

Here’s what we recommend

Avoiding the very thing that’s causing you to worry is tempting. But, when it comes to separation anxiety, we know that’s not a helpful long-term solution. One day, your child will be thriving independently in the world. Until then, they need to take small steps to gain their independence—starting with practice and preparation.

1. Practice separation

  • Start at home! When you leave your child in the room with a friend or family member, let them know you’ll be back in a moment. Build up over time.
  • Let your child bring their comforter with them when you introduce them to new people, environments or situations.
  • Read or make up stories about young characters journeying through their separation fears. Don’t criticise or label your child for feeling anxious. Instead, affirm their efforts when they are trying to be brave in new and unfamiliar situations.

2. Get separation ready

  • Spend time in new environments together. Show your child how to play, have fun, relax and become familiar with their surroundings.
  • Introduce your child to new people. Help your child build rapport with their babysitters or educators at kindy or daycare.
  • Let people know how your child is feeling, what they need to feel supported and how others can help.

3. Be intentional every time

  • Start with short times of separation and build up as the scenario becomes more comfortable and commonplace for your child.
  • Don’t disappear. They may be little but settling your child in first, saying a brief goodbye and letting your child know when you’ll be back makes a difference.
  • Separation is also hard on you! Here’s your challenge as the parent or carer: do your best to stay calm and relaxed as you leave. Your child will mirror your feelings too.

Talk to our friendly and experienced educators today

At Harmony Early Learning Journey, we prioritise holistic early learning experiences that nurture your child’s mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Our goal is to support a smooth and calm transition as your child begins their early learning journey, or transitions to kindergarten or pre-school. Talk to our team about how we can empower you and your child to enjoy this new phase in early learning—and to manage separation anxiety if it becomes a challenge.

References:

https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/behaviour/common-concerns/separation-anxiety
https://www.unicef.org/parenting/child-care/managing-child-separation-anxiety
https://beyou.edu.au/fact-sheets/mental-health-issues-and-conditions/separation-anxiety