Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Helping Parents Deal with Separation Anxiety

I sometimes have children who experience separation anxiety when their parents are dropping them off for the day. It's a natural part of development, sure, but there are also things that you can do to alleviate a lot of those tears and fears.

I'm especially fond of tip #3 in this video: Commit to your Exit. Let parents know that it's not a bad idea at all to hang out for a few minutes while their child gets comfortable. I always welcomed that and it's so much easier on a child than drop-and-run. What I didn't enjoy, however, was when a child would get involved in an activity and was perfectly happy and then Mom or Dad would made a big show of leaving. A content, acclimated child would suddenly become stricken with sorrow after hearing, "OK honey, I'm leaving. Mommy's going. Bye. Sweetie? Sweetie? Look over here at me. Mommy has to go. I'm really leaving this time. Here I go. I'm going." Please know that if that's how parents are behaving at drop-off time, it's a trigger for their child's anxiety rather than a help and you should let the parent know about it and give them ideas about how to handle the situation better. (Send them a link to the video!)

At the same time, I wouldn't ever advise parents to sneak out the door just because they see their child is happy at play. Something as simple as a kiss on the forehead and, "Looks like you're having fun. I'll see you later," is all that's needed before they walk out the door. I've seen children have some pretty hard-to-calm breakdowns after realizing that a parent left without them knowing. It's a delicate balance between too much goodbye and not enough, but it's one worth finding.

Photo Credit: "Bye Bye Window" by ThreeErin under CC by ND 2.0 license.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Packing for the Beach

The last days of summer are here! Parents and caregivers everywhere are trying to sneak in those last sunny outings and vacations. And what better place than the beach? When my son became a toddler, one of the things I found myself pretty happy about was an increasingly lighter diaper bag. I just didn't need as much stuff as before. It was all too easy to just toss a few diapers, a sippy cup, snacks and a few first aid items like bandages into a bag for a short trip.

Then came that first trip to the beach. I suddenly found myself wanting to pack not just the diaper bag, but a full suitcase. Or two! I packed sunscreen, the giant stroller, bug spray, sand toys galore, umbrellas, beach balls, chairs, enough food to feed us for days and towels as big as blankets and more. I was so sure we'd need it all. After I was finished packing, however, I wasn't even sure how I was going to make it down to the beach with all that stuff in tow plus my kid!

As it turned out, he wasn't so sure about it, either, and wasn't willing to make multiple trips to the car for unpacking once he caught sight of all that sand and water. I ended up leaving most of the stuff in the car and didn't even need it anyway. The next trip rolled around and my task was shortened considerably. I managed to whittle my list down to a few essentials which included:

  • sunscreen
  • a blanket for the ground
  • a couple of towels for drying off
  • a small cooler for sippy cups and snacks
  • diapers and wipes
  • dry clothes for the ride home
  • a small first aid kit
  • a bucket full of toys small enough to be carried by my toddler

With just those few items, we always had fun at the beach and I was able to get everything in one load. That's not just smart, it's safer since you don't want your child out of your sight when you're near the water. I tried to stick to beaches where I knew I could grab some shade so I wouldn't have to bring the umbrella, but when in doubt, that came along, too.

What are the items that you can't live without when you take your kids to the beach? Are you a light packer or do you take everything plus the kitchen sink? Have you ever made the trip with all the children in your care and if so, how did that change what you took along? Share your list.