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Top 10 ways to help children manage brief separation from parents

February 13, 2015
Top 10 ways to help children manage brief separation from parents

No matter the age of our children it is important to prepare them as much as possible in managing the stress associated with separation from parents. Readiness for separation varies of course, depending on the age of your child but research shows that separation for longer than two consecutive nights can prove difficult for children under the age of three.

  1. Understand and respect your child’s feelings, be open and avoid unnecessary stress and/or stressful environments prior to and during separation.
  2. Always make sure your children are in a caring and safe environment and use a trusted caregiver with whom the child is comfortable and feels supported. Take time to help your child adapt to a new place and/or a new person.
  3. Talk to your child to let him know that you will be away for a specified time. Since separation can be difficult for both the parent and the child it may be beneficial for both to put the situation into words such as: “I am going grocery shopping, I will come back in one hour.”
  4. Explain to your caregiver your child’s daily routines, habits, favourite games or toys and how to comfort him if he’s feeling distressed. Leave contact information for where you can be reached, and make sure your caregiver has emergency phone numbers and your child’s Alberta Health Care card.
  5. It is very important that separation takes place in the presence of the child, when he is awake. You can break his trust when you ‘sneak away’.  A sincere, warm and quick goodbye will help your child know that you will return.
  6. Leaving a small personal object such as your scarf or photograph can be soothing for your child. Explain that when you return, he will be able to give you back that item, and that giving it back will signal the time of separation is over.
  7. Also critically important following separation is devoting focused and intentional time with your child.
  8. Avoid using shame, fear, threats or intimidation to force the separation in order to try to prevent children from crying.
  9. Reassure your child of your love by using a separation ritual which is meaningful to your family. Be honest, help him develop the understanding that sometimes parents have to leave their child’s side for brief periods of time.
  10. Build a trusting and positive relationship with your child from the beginning, so they know you will be back!



Attachment Parenting International: API's Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting

French pediatrician Dr. Aldo Nauri. “L’Enfant Bien Portant”.

Wood’s Homes (Home Connections program/Canmore)