Separation Anxiety over six

It has been said that your children will teach you how to be the parent that each of them will need. Before I had children of my own I would have told you that I have exhaustively studied children, parenting, the health and the connection between the two. That is laughable now compared to the mountains of research, conversations and feedback I have sought out since actually having kids.

Little Sister was home sick for two days this week. Yesterday morning she still didn’t look 100 percent and I let her take a nap and go in an hour later. She was sobbing at lunchtime but she stuck it out and by the time I picked her up – wouldn’t you guess it, she was fine. But this morning the cycle repeated. She wanted to stay home. She wanted to only go for a half day. She wanted to go to school, but be taken out of resource. I stayed calm, explaining we were down to about 20 school days left – some being half days. I told her that I believed in her, that I knew she could do it. She needed to dig deep; that I would be the first one there to pick her up from school.

At drop off she was red faced, puffy eyed and crying hard, saying that she didn’t want to get out the car – that she was going to be too sad, she had a headache, she couldn’t do it. The school resource officer climbed into my car, explaining that he would walk her to class, telling her he believed in her, that she could do it. She reluctantly and sullenly exited, still in tears and I drove away.

I am supposed to be strong. I am supposed to shake that off and go on with my day when my inner monologue is just a bunch of expletives in dark angry letters. I have been told to disassociate – that she is feeding off my hidden energy; that somehow I want this, that this is somehow my issue – manifesting as hers. I have been told that this is God’s way of telling me I should pull her out of traditional schooling or that this is God’s way of telling me she is a willful child that I need to rein in. (For the record, I think of God as more of a guiding force of energy that says “I have got you. You have got this”).

The research on separation anxiety in children is daunting. And also geared at the under six set (with an emphasis on infants and toddlers). If the child is over six the root of the anxiety is usually tied to a traumatic event – divorce, death, or abuse with lesser reactions from relocation, change in the family or a change in routine. None of which we have experienced lately (aside form starting preschool and starting kindergarten). She has no irrational fears of something happening to her or to her parents or home of other friends and family members. She has no trouble sleeping or making friends or being outgoing under a watchful eye. There is no bedwetting. It boils down to her not wanting to separate from us (although mostly me – as I stay at home and my husband works).

Some experts suggest I stay with the routine of being consistently “there” by being home and being present for all of her activities and events. Others suggest I distance myself from her, proving that even if I am not right there for her she will survive. Universally, I am told this is a phase she will grow out of; I would like an exact date…

What I can say is this: it sucks and I hate this stage. I have yet to get out of it though so I better get into it. I will read on and I will try new things and I will rise to the occasion of becoming the parent I need to be and lead by example that we can do hard things when we don’t give up. I wrote this all down for her to read one day or maybe to work through everything I feel, but above all to send it out there for anyone else going through this themselves because I in place of the blame and the guilt and the anxiety that surrounds this, the lesson I whole-heartedly believe is that someone has your back and that whatever you have in front of you will work out.

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