Separation anxiety is a standard part of growing up. You will likely notice it in babies around 6 months old, ending when they are about to leave the nursery. Children become bonded with their carer, and they don’t want to break that bond. When they are presented to new people with unfamiliar voices and strange faces, they get a little nervous. This intimate connection you have with your foster child is actually something you should celebrate. You have created a happy home environment. They feel safe and comfortable – Well done! You are no doubt a great foster carer!
This type of anxiety should, however, not last too long. Kids want to nest with the family but at some point should be very curious about the wider world. Making a bunch of friends is a crucial step for a child. Discovering new sights and sounds and learning how to be friendly will set them up perfectly for primary school. Ensuring they have an excellent opportunity to succeed at school is one of the top foster parent requirements.
If your foster child is not interested in other kids, it could be separation anxiety. Of course, this is not your fault. But, it is probably time to give them a little push in the right direction. Separation anxiety symptoms are pretty easy to spot. Generally, they will be holding on to you like their life depended on it! Here is a list of some common signs:
- Refusing to leave your side for a second.
- Not wanting to attend school at all.
- Having a screaming match during separation.
Recognizing the symptoms is the first step. Then, read these tips on how to handle your child’s anxiety and watch them thrive. After that, they will be jumping into new experiences.
Don’t worry; you will remain very closely bonded with them! However, they need to lose any social fear that will prevent them from making friends in the future.
Tip 1: Practice Makes Perfect
Just like teaching them to swim – do not throw them into the deep end!
Children do not want any shocks or big surprises when they are first separated from you. So make sure you reassure them that nothing will go wrong. Use your voice! Instill confidence and keep positive thoughts in their mind.
It would help if you tried a little mini separation to get them used to time apart. For example, explain to your foster child that you will be away for 30 minutes to go shopping. Tell them they will be staying at home with your friend or a sitter. Each time you leave, add a little more to your shopping trip. After a month or so you might be able to stay away without them getting upset. Do not forget that when you say 30 minutes, you must stick to 30 minutes. If you do not follow through on time, they will lose trust.
If you haven’t booked a sitter, maybe you could leave your foster child alone in a separate room with a sibling. Bonding with the rest of your family is hugely beneficial to them.
Tip 2: Goodbyes Should Be Short And Sweet
It is normal to give your foster child a big hug and kiss when you leave them. However, if you linger too long and give them too big a squeeze, they might get concerned. You are very tightly bonded with them, and they can sense when you are worried about a situation. Keeping the words positive and light will put them in a reasonable frame of mind. Negative thoughts will drive them throughout the separation if you warn them or mention something they are afraid of.
Make your goodbye short and confident. Leave your child with a big smile and reassure them that you will be back at the time you told them.
It is tough to separate, but you have to show a brave face for them. No tears! We bet when you return, they will be happy and playing with new pals.
Tip 3: Do Your Prep
Kids will always be a little sad and confused when you leave. To make the situation less jarring, you need to plan ahead. The friend you are leaving them with will be face to face with a tetchy kid unless you give them some help. For example, supply them with your foster child’s favorite toys, which will distract them from your absence.
If the child can see their little soft toys beside them, the situation will feel less strange. They need to retain some familiarity to process what is happening.
This is the time not to be a strict parent. Instead, let them have the treats they want and shower them with goodies. Having a teddy bear to hug and some chocolate to eat might get them through the first separation – after that, it will be a cakewalk!
Using these tips should go a long way to getting rid of any separation anxiety. However, if the issues persist, then you should consult a professional. Your local doctor can shed some further light on the situation.