The first part of this blog post is about helping children deal with separation anxiety and effectively learning about how to get comfortable with endings, goodbyes and transitions. It also tells you about my story and why I truly understand what this feels like for a child.
Most children come to coaching because they are experiencing an ending – or fearful of a new beginning. One follows the other. To be honest children are pretty resilient when it comes to loss or feelings because they handle it like jumping in puddles as I recently posted on my Facebook page after watching Grief Therapist, Julia Samuel speak on ITV’s Lorraine. I wrote:
“Great piece on loss and grief this morning on Lorraine.Grief therapist, Julia Samuel gave her tips for families dealing with grief. I have to say that families often overlook grief when a family splits up – it’s a huge loss for all of them. Lots of us associate grief with being when somebody dies, but it can be any sort of loss. For children this can be friends, pets and when nannies or key workers leave.
Julia Samuel spoke about how grief is invisible and needs to be expressed rather than fixed. We naturally want to protect children from those painful feelings. She said for children it’s like jumping in puddles. Let them fall in the puddle and express their grief (no matter how hard it is for you to be with…….just hold their hand while they jump and resist the urge to fix, pacify or tell them it will pass (diminish)). She said they will jump in a puddle and then spring out again. It’s not linear and it does take time. Everybody will handle it differently.
She then went on to say that when we lose love, the only way to heal is through connection and love to others. When grief stays inside of you, it gets stuck and it can be lonely.
I deal with grief in my work and giving it a voice helps families massively. Having somebody outside of the family who can listen and allow those feelings to come out is the way forward. I have witnessed and been with children lying on my coaching room floor crying so deeply and begging me to bring back their Mummy or Daddy. I can’t and that’s the thing. Grief doesn’t need fixing. It’s painful and it’s emotional and it’s invisible. It needs an outlet. A loving, gentle, kind and understanding one. So heartbreaking for any child losing a parent in life and for families who break up.”
To access the whole article on supporting grief and bereavement, click on image above. So grief can trigger separation anxiety and being in that dance of separation anxiety for some parents is going to trigger you. A clingy child can trigger stuff in us. It can feel too much. We may feel like we can’t breathe or it may feel out of control or helpless.
Below you will find helpful Smiley considerations and practical tips for families experiencing separation anxiety and how you can help them. You have to do your bit you know, you can’t leave them out there thinking it’s just their problem. This relationship is 50% you and 50% them so here are a few pointers at how you may or may not be directly or indirectly, contributing to separation anxiety :
- If you have recently experienced a family loss or life changing event then it’s natural for your child to experience separation anxiety in response to this.
- Look at your relationship with your Mum and learn what your attachment style is
- Look at your response to your child’s separation anxiety – you will feed off each other. It’s likely that if you are anxious or you don’t feel confident about your child’s safety or leaving your child, your child will pick up on this. This shows up at Smiley Workshops – especially Get Your Worries Out. It’s sometimes harder for the Mums to leave their children and yet, it appears to be the other way around 😉
- Make a commitment and work hard to overcome your own fears and anxieties. I would suggested some counselling would be helpful. I found CBT initially useful. A book I first read when I was trying to master my Mind Monkies was ‘Feel the Fear & Do It Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers. If you don’t have time to read it, then get the audio version. Pop your ear buds in when you are ironing or cleaning or waiting on the school run and plug yourself in to a new way of thinking.
- Think back to what was going on when you were pregnant with or your child came into the world? Some people (namely me and some other child psychology experts) believe that attachment with your child begins the minute they start growing inside you.
- Learn about connection parenting and work on a healthy emotional connection with your child. This includes having healthy boundaries. A good place to start is with my eBook ‘Rediscover the Magic of Parenting in a Busy World.‘
- Encourage your child to do things on their own and show them that you believe in them. Watch them rise up and embrace their independence. Trust them and nature. They will find their way. They are hardwired to struggle and they must struggle a little to learn and find their way.
- Look at your Blueprint for Love. Some things which look like love really aren’t love at all and are quite damaging to a child’s development.
- Recognise when you feel overwhelmed by clingyness and make sure you top up your love tanks and take care of your own needs when your child is being clingy. They require patience, calm and kindness. You can’t make it right for them but you can be their calm in the storm. Your child will sense your need for space if you feel suffocated in this way and it will make them cling more. They will be more upset and confused if you are not available to them during this time. Obviously not 24/7 because you have appropriate boundaries and can say no kindly and firmly.
- Teach your child to see the world as a safe and happy place. Use my Smiley Thought Cards. They are great for building connection, thinking more positively and also a very handy transitional object. Popular cards in the pack which children carrying school bags or blazer pockets:
- ‘I am Safe and Protected’ (shown above)
- ‘Bad Things Don’t Last forever’
- ‘I am Never Alone’
So whatever feelings are coming up for you and your child, wholeheartedly embrace them. You feel your feelings and they feel theirs. Don’t push the anxiety away or distract from it. Don’t try to fix it or squash it. Breathe through it and let it be. Accept that is where you are.
Once you start to see it differently and you talk about it – hopefully this blog will have started that process, it will get much easier for both of you.
If you found this blog post useful and you would like me to help you and your child, please book your free 20 minute call with me to see if that would be right for you.