Separation AnxietyPosted: July 2, 2012
Being a Supernanny affords me relationships with the kiddos that result in less tears when parents leave than the average caregiver, but by no means wipes them out completely. Even charges I have had for years, who love me, and feel comfortable being left with me for days at a time will have moments when they just don’t want parent/s to go. Sometimes it’s separation anxiety, other times it’s that combined with other factors that make it particularly rough on a child.
When I first started nannying Doc, his Aunt Aspen clued me in that he had been very sensitive to separation from his parents. He had only ever been looked after by his folks or Aspen up until I started with them, and it would be an adjustment on many levels, especially mornings. Doc had been concerned at night time, a bit unsure of who would be there when he woke up in the morning- on occasion one parent would have to leave town for work, departing before Doc awoke, most days both would be there to have the morning with him. The inconsistency, however infrequent, had started to affect his ability to fall asleep. As an extremely intelligent child, his awareness and emotional needs were heightened. I suggested that, using a poster board, they make a “Doc’s House”, cutting out photos of all the possible family members (or caregivers) who would be there on a regular basis, on a given morning. Each night they could attach photos of who would be there the next morning so Doc could go to sleep confident in the knowledge of what, and who, he would be waking up to. Doc loves a project and enjoyed the construction of his house, and the implementation of, “Who’s in Doc’s House?” Visual aids can be very helpful to children and being able to see plainly what a day holds is a great comfort to children. In elementary school I loved the calendars, clothespins with mine and classmates names on them clipped to whatever task we were assigned. It was right there, no guesswork. Eventually Doc no longer needed, “Who’s in Doc’s House?” but it evolved into he and his mommy creating a calendar every month with symbols for activities, travel, and denoting Miss Cheryl days(symbolized by either a fat cat or a mermaid 🙂 ).
For this particular case of separation anxiety, I devised a plan for Doc’s specific needs. Some children are more sensitive, more aware, and thus require a little extra creativity. On a more universal scale, separation anxiety rears its head much more around nighttime. This is to be expected, and I have had many late night wanderers who have crept their way, rubbing eyes, out of their bedrooms and into whatever room I’m in, always having had a nightmare (within minutes of my closing the door behind me), needing a glass of water, wanting to stay up with me- bottom line: wanting their parent/s to come home. I’m patient but firm, picking them up, getting them whatever bodily need is their excuse this time, then always escorting them back to their room, and gently putting them back into bed. And here’s where I deliver a deal that through trial and error has become something of a saving grace in the separation anxiety department: I ask the child if he/she wants me to have his/her parents wake them up when they get home. The answer is always yes, I assure them that I will, and that is, as they say, that! For some reason this always calms children down, and they drift off to sleep. Most times I’m sure to tell the parents of this exchange, sometimes I forget. The genius of this tact is that whether the parents do wake them up(I’m guessing 99.9% never do) or not, the child sleeps soundly. Miss Cheryl: 1, Separation Anxiety: 0.