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12 Tips for Parents: Separation Anxiety in Children of Divorce

When mom and dad split kids experience loss and may very well feel a good deal of anxiety.26158722_s

When will I see my other parent again? Am I still loved? Are you going to leave me too?

Some separation anxiety is normal. Parents can often help a child work through normal separation anxiety related to mom and dad living apart. If mild anxiety starts to progress and the child becomes increasingly distressed it is wise to promptly consult your pediatrician.

Here are a dozen tips for dealing with normal separation anxiety…

1. Understand that anxiety is rooted in fear. Acknowledge that your child’s behavior such as not wanting you to leave or not wanting to leave you means that they are afraid. Take that fear seriously.

2. Try to identify the specific source of that fear.  What is triggering it? Offer reassurances to your child. If your child is old enough talk with them about what is scary.

3. Make your child’s environment as stable and predictable as possible. Routines create a comfort level. If your young child has a special toy or blanket, be sure it is handy. If your child is older, discuss with them a plan for what to do when they feel anxiety.

4. Try to schedule your departures for a time when the child is not tired. We all tend to be more emotional when we are tired.

5. Until the idea of separation settles in, restrict your child’s access to scary things. Movies, even scary characters or stories on TV can increase anxiety.

6. Be very calm when separating from your child and when rejoining your child. If you are tense or excited your child will pick up on those emotions. Leave promptly after you say good-bye.

7. Reassure your child that you love him and that he is safe and will be fine in your absence.

8. Do your best to have consistent childcare. This adds stability. Sensitize teachers and caregivers to what is going on in your child’s life.

9. Separate from your child for short periods of time at first if possible. Gradually increase the length of time you are away.

10. Model feeling secure for your child. That may sound funny but your ability to cope calmly with separation and divorce will make your child feel more secure. If you need to have a melt-down, don’t do it in front of your children.

11. Model faith for you child. Teach your children that God always loves them and takes care of them. Teach them songs of reassurance like “Jesus Loves Me” or other age appropriate songs of faith. Pray with your child daily.

12. Partner with your child. Let the child know that life may feel scary now but that you will get through life’s changes together.

Remember…if anxiety persists or starts to increase it is wise to consult your pediatrician immediately for assistance.

“God loyal people, living honest lives, make it much easier for their children.”

Proverbs 20:7 THE MESSAGE

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About the Author:

Renee Smith Ettline is founder of After Divorce Ministries, LLC and author of the award-winning book, Peace after DivorcePeace after Divorce has been recognized as an exemplary Christian self-help book by the Illumination Book Awards.  She also writes for various publications and is author of the Peace after Divorce group curriculum. Her short-read eBook, 5 Keys to Healing from Divorce is available for free by completing the green circle at the top right of this page.

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