As I’ve written about before, I’ve been dealing with varying degrees of separation anxiety with Harlow all summer. Some days I drop her off at camp and she’s totally fine and some days it’s pretty brutal— on both of us.
After I asked for tips on my facebook page, I ended up giving Harlow a miniature family photo that she carried around in a little raccoon purse that she likes to wear. I also gave up the shorts and sneakers battle and let her wear cotton play dresses with Crocs to camp. That seemed to make her feel more comfortable too.
Harlow wore the purse with the pictures in it for a full week and by the end, that photo came back a tiny shriveled wet piece of paper. She asked me to reprint it for the second week and then by the third week, she said she didn’t need it anymore. She left the raccoon purse at home too, but stuck with the dresses.
That didn’t mean the separation anxiety was over. It had definitely improved but she would still get a little sad and try to cling to me in the morning at times. She also liked me to carry her from the car as opposed to walking in on her own. The one time she went to camp with no qualms whatsoever (no tears, no picture, no raccoon purse, no carrying) was the morning after she went to sleep at 6pm the night before. I guess a well rested Harlow is a less anxious Harlow, but early bedtime was impossible for me to pull off most nights.
I also noticed that Harlow had a much easier time with drop-off when Mike takes her to camp than when I do. Probably because Mike doesn’t get that “I hope I’m not destroying my baby’s life” look in the eye like me.
I used Mazzy as my spy, since she would see Harlow at various points throughout the day. With the exception of one time (when she was actually coming down with a cold), Mazzy reported that Harlow was always having fun and not crying. They also got to sit together for snack.
Towards the middle of the summer, Harlow asked to stay the extended hours so she could go home the same time as Mazzy (4pm vs. her initial pick-up time of 2pm) which is a pretty good indicator that she was happy there during the day.
And best of all, Harlow did always seem happy at pick-up.
Camp is over at the end of this week and then preschool will start the following week. Harlow will have to get used to a new classroom, new teachers and new kids all over again. She says she’s excited for school but I thought now would be a good time to revisit all of the separation anxiety ideas other moms gave me on my facebook page.
You know. Just in case there are other moms out there who need to hear them too.
24 Ideas for Dealing with Separation Anxiety from Moms Who Have Been There:
“I had my daughter wear one of my bracelets (not an expensive one) to school the first few weeks. She would “take care of it” for me and then give it back when I picked her up. I told her if she was missing me during the day, she could look at it and know that I would be back to get her and she could give it back.” – Erica
“I had my son take one of my t-shirts as a blanket to cuddle with at nap time.” – Cambria
“I had terrible separation anxiety when I was a kid. My mom would do a lipstick “kiss” on a Kleenex, and send it to daycare in my pocket. Then, if I needed a kiss from her, I always had one.” – Bethany
“A stuffie with a couple spritzes of my perfume helped my son.” – Rebecca
“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood is a great TV series for young kids that teaches various social/emotional skills. They have a great episode about separation anxiety with the song ‘Grown-ups Come Back’.” – Nicole
“A locket with a photo helped my daughter in kindergarten. Every time she missed me, she got to open it and see the picture and she said it made her feel better.” – Amanda
“A friend has her son write her name in his hand with a heart around it and when he misses her, he squeezes his hand, sort of like sending her a hug. He also writes his name is her hand so she can do the same.” – Fain
“I suggest ‘The Kissing Hand’ children’s book!!! It is the sweetest book for both kids and parents going through separation such as school and camp. I remember when I was little, the book even came with a little sheet of heart stickers to put on your hand.” – Mary
“A kiss in her palm to use later when she needs it.” – Jennifer
“Talk about drop off ahead of time and give a specific time you’ll be back. Say: ‘I’m going to drop you off and you’ll have fun doing ___, and then I’ll be back to get you after snack time. We can ____ when you come home.’ Then when you drop-off, be quick. ‘Bye honey! Love you! See you after snack time!!’ – Molly
“If your child is strong willed and like to control the situation, give her some control during drop-off too. Something Like, ‘How do you want to say goodbye today?'” – Carmen
“I keep a small carabiner on my keyring. On tough mornings, I give it to my daughter and ask that she takes care of it for the day. It can usually get clipped onto her clothing as ia distraction and a reminder that I’m coming back.” – Amanda
“Have someone else take her like a friend or family member etc. Often kids don’t make drop-off nearly as hard when someone besides mom does it.” – Rebecca
“I use very small positive reinforcers (yes, a bribe) like a treat or a dollar store trinket. Then I fade them out as the behavior improves.” – Isa
“Try a social story (google it.) In the story, break down the schedule— the drop-off, how you say goodbye, the counselors, the activities and then the pick-up. It works even better if you use actual photos of the sequence of events.” – Karen
“Get matching bracelets. Explain that you’ll both wear them all day and when she’s missing you, she can look at the bracelet to make her feel better. Tell her that you’ll look at your bracelet when you miss her too.” – Rachel
“I gave my little girl a key. I told her it was mommy’s house key and that I couldn’t get back into our house without it, so she knew I was coming back so that we could go home together.” – Naomi
I had bad separation anxiety when I was little. My mom gave me a watch and marked what time she would be back to get me on it. I had a reminder right on my wrist that told me mom will always come back and exactly when.” – Tiffany
“I use reverse psychology. My husband usually takes our son but one morning I took him and he was whining about going the whole way. When I pulled in, I exclaimed “Is THIS your camp? This looks like a big-boy camp! This can’t be YOUR camp!” He played along, even singing me the camp song, and the whining stopped.” – djjazzyjonas
“My mom would pin a little bird pin to all my cardigans in nursery school and kindergarten. I was told to touch the bird anytime I missed her and to know that she loves me, is thinking of me and that I’ll see her very soon.” – Lauren
“We made a sticker chart for brave goodbyes. Five stickers and she got a shopkins. It was great because she worked really hard for it and felt like she accomplished something big.” – McKenna
“Llama Llama Misses Mama is a good picture book to help with difficult drop offs! It helped me and my 3 year old after nearly 6 months of absolutely terrible daycare drop offs. Screaming, clinging, crying. It was awful. Now we can talk about how I’ll come back soon just like Mama Llama and it has helped calm to the storm a bit.” – cwihksne
“We have a routine of a set of three hugs, three kisses, three fist bumps and then we shout ‘Girl Power!’ Then run and play. If she can do it, she gets a sticker on her chart.” – Jess
“I gave my little dude a pewter heart to carry in his pocket. 3 years later and starting middle school, its still in his backpack.” – Eliza
If you have any tips or experiences with separation anxiety in kids, please leave them below. I’ll be giving tips from teachers tomorrow!