Separation anxiety usually rears its head several times in early childhood. Just when you think your child has gained some independence, she’s once again hysterical at the thought of you leaving her. It is very normal for children to experience intermittent separation anxiety for the first five to six years of life. It can be just as hard on you as on your child. Experts recommend a short yet meaningful goodbye is the best approach so your child feels loved but understands that you are going to leave.
Developing ways to say goodbye to your child can help make transitions easier for you both. Here are some clever ways to say goodbye to your child:
Create a Routine: Come up with a brief goodbye routine with your child. Maybe it’s a quick dance or secret handshake ending in a hug. Perhaps it’s a 1-minute tickle match. Or it could be 3 butterfly kisses, 2 bear hugs and 1 giant smooch. Whatever leaves your child with a smile and a contented heart will do the trick.
Learn to Say Goodbye in Different Languages: Make a list of ways to say goodbye in a variety of languages. Work on learning them with your child and use different ones each time you have to leave.
Make a Plan: For 2s and up, tell your child where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. Make a plan to share three interesting things you did or learned while you were away and ask your child to do the same. When you reunite, share your items as a way to connect and hear about what happened when you were away from each other.
Hunt for It: Leave your child a note or hide an object somewhere in your house. After a short goodbye hug, tell your child what to look for and have her go on a hunt. This method of distraction will allow you to leave and keep your child occupied with a fun activity. You can discuss it when you return.
Give a Kissing Hand: There’s a sweet book called The Kissing Hand that you can read and then share a kiss on the hand before separating. This is a symbol that you’ll always be together in spirit.
Learn a Poem: Recite a cute poem together about goodbyes. There are cute animal rhymes such as “see ya later, alligator,” “give a kiss, jellyfish,” or “bye, bye, butterfly.” You can come up with your own silly lines as well.
Share a Picture: Create a tradition that you’ll take a photo of something cool you see when you’re gone. Then you’ll send it to your child’s caregiver to share or you’ll show your child when you return. For older children, encourage them to make you a picture while you’re away as a way for them to share with you too.
Farewells can be hard for everyone. Test out several ways to say goodbye to your child to help make transitions smoother during times of separation anxiety. And always remind your little one that the separation is temporary and you’ll come back very soon.