Looking to you for reassurance is a normal part of this important developmental leap, though it can often be a difficult time for parents – particularly with more than one child to consider.
It is important to remember that separation anxiety is normal, developmentally appropriate behaviour and not a reflection upon your parenting. Advice, from well-meaning friends and relatives, to force your child through this stage could be counterproductive. Research into separation anxiety suggests that positive, responsive parenting is the key to helping them as they navigate unchartered territories.
With suggestions ranging from carrying your child around with you (babywearing is excellent for this stage) to not forcing your child to confront their fears and even greeting new faces with warmth and confidence, the ways in which to guide your child through their anxieties are many and varied. Helping yourself through this phase is a little trickier, however.
In order to be a strong source of support for your child, you need to be taking good care of yourself. We’ve come up with a few ways in which you can nurture yourself so that you can face the challenges of parenting an anxious child with enthusiasm and positivity, which has been shown to be the quickest way to ease them out of their fears:
EAT WELL Feeding your body the right foods is important to help your mind and body function optimally. Consuming foods that leave you feeling lethargic and irritable will reduce your natural ability to cope with normal developmental phases such as separation anxiety.
EXERCISE If, like many parents, you struggle to find the time to exercise out of your home you may wish to consider investing in a yoga DVD. The benefits of yoga are numerous, with an increased sense of calm and wellness being one of the most prominent, but the benefits of simply taking time and space for yourself to exercise can have a big impact upon your mental wellbeing.
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF This is often easier said than done, especially if you have little access to support outside of the home. If time is precious, remember that housework can wait and an extra-long soak in the bath could be all it takes to relax a little and release some tension from your mind and body.
BE POSITIVE Definitely easier said than done, but a decision to approach life with more positivity is naturally worthwhile. Whether or not you believe in the laws of attraction, in the very least it’s easy to appreciate that negativity achieves nothing and quickly leads to despair. Often, we can talk ourselves into a bad mood. Take a step back and remember that “This too shall pass”.
REST Sit down with a cup of tea and read a book whilst your baby enjoys a nurse-a-thon. Go to bed earlier. Take a much needed lie-in. Don’t be a martyr, save your energy for the things that really matter and take rest where you can.
For more information on separation anxiety and childhood development, please visit: http://kellymom.com/parenting/parenting-faq/separationanxiety/