Angoisse de la séparation : comment la gérer pour une rentrée apaisée - Élhée

Separation anxiety: how to manage it for a peaceful return to school

For babies, for little ones, for older children and even for parents, the start of the school year is synonymous with a change of pace, novelty and very often, separation. A sometimes complicated period, which can generate stress and many emotions. The little arms that stretch, the lips that twist, the tears that fall and the hearts of the parents that squeeze very tightly. Because these symptoms sometimes extend beyond the first day of school, let's find out together how to manage separation anxiety.


Separation anxiety, what is it?

Separation anxiety is an identified stage of development in babies , which generally manifests itself around the age of 8 months . At this age, babies begin to recognize faces and put memory and understanding to work together.

So, when a baby loses his main points of reference (his parents), he can panic and start crying . In an unfamiliar environment, his reaction may be even stronger and more difficult to manage. This is why your pediatrician may have advised you not to schedule entry into daycare around the eighth month.

But separation anxiety can also manifest itself earlier or later , or reappear occasionally , especially at the start of the school year. In older children, we also talk about separation anxiety.

How does this fear manifest in babies?

separation anxiety and transitional objects

When he no longer sees you, your baby cries . In the morning, when he arrives at daycare, he refuses to leave you . From one day to the next, he no longer wants to go to school and is even reluctant to stay with his grandparents, even though until then, everything was going well. Also, to people he doesn't know, baby smiles much less easily . Finally, he struggles to stay alone in bed and wakes up more frequently than usual.

Often, when you pretend to leave or simply when you move to another room, he cries tears, stretches his arms out, clings to you or gets angry . If you entrust him to other arms, he will show his fear and disapproval . It's separation anxiety. Babies and children can be confronted with this feeling with more or less vehemence.

Separation anxiety does not always manifest itself in the same way towards both parents. It even happens that a baby cries when he is entrusted to the one of his parents who is least present by his side. Here, it is the bond of attachment , the routine, the habits and the familiar and reassuring gestures that speak. This reaction, sometimes difficult for the parent who encounters it, requires patience, but does not prevent the creation of a solid and secure bond.

Also, if you feel your little one progressively destabilized, if you see that departures are more and more complicated , trust yourself and, if you can, take more time, resume the adaptation phases, or postpone the program completely. entry into the community. Only you know what is good for your baby.🤎

8 tips for a smooth return to school, from daycare

  1. Communicate with your child , even when very young. Beyond words, babies are susceptible to emotions. Gently explain to him that you are going to work, that he is going to daycare and that you will meet up afterwards.
  2. Give time markers , explain to your baby what you will do this afternoon or evening, when you are together again. If he is a little older, you can also count the number of sleeps before nursery, to prepare him.
  3. Play “cuckoo” ! Disappear then reappear to show your baby that he doesn't need to worry.
  4. Organize a gentle first separation by entrusting your child to his or her grandparents for a day, night or weekend.
  5. Take advantage of the adaptation period offered by the crèche to move forward smoothly and get to know each other. From a few minutes, to a day or half a day, baby discovers, step by step, his new environment.
  6. Create routines to reassure your baby. Habits help your child develop habits. To put them in place more easily, always follow the same procedure before leaving for nursery. For example, take out the car seat, dress baby, prepare his diaper bag and give a cuddle.
  7. At daycare, avoid “disappearing” while your child is playing or not looking at you. He may be surprised and even more distressed when he realizes it.
  8. Focus on transitional objects such as a cuddly toy or baby bottle . While the infant thinks he is one with his mother, the transitional object allows him to slowly detach himself from her and better manage the anxiety of separation.

What if baby cries every time we separate?

what is separation anxiety?

If seeing your baby cry is always a difficult time to go through, once at daycare or school, hold on and don't change your plans.

Remind him that you will come back very soon and that everything will be fine . Say goodbye to him and leave. While it's best to avoid leaving quickly, leave "firmly" and don't procrastinate when it's time to close the door . Your calm and serene attitude will also end up reassuring your baby.

Finally, tell yourself that the situation often gets better very quickly and trust the multidisciplinary team to know how to react and how to console your baby.

Why are first separations so difficult?

You carried your child for 9 months and you have just shared weeks and even months of a fused state with him. You are going back to work , which you may not like, and you have to leave your baby with a third person for the day . It is normal that the first separations are not easy.

Even when older, you feel the need to protect your child from external worries. It's the experience that speaks and exacerbates your mother hen or mother wolf side, you would like to always keep him close to you , in the hollow of your arms, where he is safe.

Also, your personal story is important . If your delivery went badly , if you are aware of a traumatic event linked to the birth of a child... These emotional shocks can awaken in you a fear of separation which reappears (among other things) at each start of the school year .

Separation anxiety at 3 years old: how to approach starting kindergarten?

separation anxiety in kindergarten

In slightly older children, it is more a question of separation anxiety . During special events such as the start of school, the child feels a strong fear at the idea of ​​being separated from his parents. In the vast majority of cases, this fear subsides on its own. Otherwise, we can sometimes speak of anxiety disorders.

5 tips to make your child's life easier at school

  1. Listen to your child, welcome his doubts and anxieties . This attention will help him to put his feelings into perspective (in his own way) and put things into perspective.
  2. Imagine a new rhythm together , punctuated by pleasant moments that will help him enjoy his new days: brioche for breakfast, a walk in the park after school...
  3. For older children, in primary or middle school, schedule some revisions in the days before the start of the school year . A useful precaution to reduce the stress linked to teachers and learning.
  4. Cultivate optimism , everything will be fine! Even if you know that small hiccups can always occur, there is no need to anticipate. Very often, positive attracts positive.
  5. Silence your own anxieties , those that come back to each school year and come from your past experiences. Even though most children experience the same situations, there is no reason for your child to relive yours.

Parental stress: 4 tips to put things into perspective for you too

the stress of going back to school for parents
  1. Reserve the first day of school (or the morning), to help your child prepare and to accompany them to nursery or school. He will only be more sure of himself and you, more reassured.
  2. Show yourself calm and confident . Nursery/school is good, everything will be fine. If necessary, tell your child who to see and how to do it. For your part, don't hesitate, during the first few days, to call the nursery to find out news about your baby.
  3. Slip a cuddly toy, pacifier or little note into your child's bag for their first day as a grown-up. He will find them and bring them out when he needs them.
  4. Trust the adults present on site . The experienced nursery nurses at the nursery or the teaching team at the school are there to watch over your child in your absence.
And because the start of the school year is always better accompanied, Élhée offers you a list of albums and books to read as a family , to play down the drama, put it into perspective and familiarize yourself, at all ages, with this new environment that is the community.
    • Bye ! by Jeanne Ashbé, published by l'École des Loisirs, from 0 to 3 years old .
    • Little hands by Carine Hazan and Vincent Bourgeau, published by Thierry Magnier, from 0 to 3 years old.
    • Mom at school , by Éric Veillé and Pauline Martin, published by Actes Sud, from 3 years old.
    • The color monster goes to school , by Anna Llenas , published by Glénat, from 3 years old.
    • What stress for the teacher! by Jo Hoestlandt and Éric Gasté, published by Acte Sud Jeunesse, from 4 years old.
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