Separation anxiety in 6 year old - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 15 Old 08-27-2011, 07:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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We are an "always together" family. DH and I both work from home. We homeschool. You get the idea.

 

Obviously, everybody in America would immediately say that this caused the separation anxiety that DD has. We should have put her in daycare when she was 6 months old, then preschool. Dropped her off everywhere just for the sake of getting away from her. I don't believe it, though. 150 years ago, no kids went to daycare, a lot of kids didn't go to school. I assume they pretty much all coslept with someone (if not parents, then siblings, grandparents, whatever). I doubt they were all afflicted with separation anxiety.

 

However, I do fully admit - heck, I'll just say it, I believe - that we are triggering the anxiety. But I don't know how to solve it.

 

From reading around, it seems there are two main causes of separation anxiety. One is a traumatic event - grandma dies, daddy goes in the hospital, that sort of thing. This is not the case for us. The other cause is overprotective parenting. Parents (or one parent) who are anxious themselves about their child being away from them. The child picks up on this. I'm afraid this is the case for us. And as much as DH would be upset by my thinking on this, I have to say it's really his anxiety.

 

And, no surprise, it's DH that DD is afraid of being separated from.

 

Besides the bigger problem of the anxiety overall, a smaller problem is that *I*, her mother, am not enough to make her feel secure. She has to be with DH. She wants me to be present too, but I alone am not enough. DH alone is enough. So if DH runs an errand and doesn't take her, she is anxious. She usually wants me to call him on the cell phone after he's been gone for 5 minutes. (I don't ever do this but she will still ask). She asks for frequent reassurance that he is coming back.

 

DH is the primary parent, due to the fact that I have the more steady income and due to my disabilities (I can't drive, so taking her anywhere falls on DH). I suspect, though this is just a theory, that the reason that I am not enough to make her feel secure is due to the disabilities. I guess she doesn't feel I can take care of her? Though I am perfectly resourceful, and DH depends on me for some kinds of things as well as me depending on him for other things. (Granted, I guess I depend on him a bit more). While I think it's critically important to solve the bigger issue, I would really like to first take the smaller step of having DD at least feel secure with me (without needing DH).

 

Any suggestions? Resources? A good book? Is a type of therapy the best approach? But we need to help not just DD but DH first. DH had a scary childhood, and for understandable reasons he is completely committed to DD's safety and security. I don't believe he is paranoid, but his trust level for fellow human beings is rather low. I honestly have no intention of asking or hoping that he will suddenly trust all kinds of people with DD. I don't expect or need him to even trust people as much as the average parent does. But I would like for him to sort through his feelings and draw a distinction between appropriate caution and across-the-board anxiety. I'd want him to understand that DD cannot adequately learn to protect herself if she feels that Daddy must protect her. I think this is something he would be willing to understand (and I think potentially a lightbulb moment) but I don't know how to approach this without making him feel defensive - or rather, I just want to do it right the first time rather than have to clean up a mess if I do damage. And even if he completely and totally agreed with me *today*, I'm not sure we know exactly how to go about transitioning. What would a change look like? How do I talk to DH about this? How do we both talk to DD about this?

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#2 of 15 Old 08-27-2011, 08:00 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh, for the record, he's aware of her anxiety and does think it's a problem we need to address. And at least somewhat aware of his potential impact. Which is awesome. But that's as far as we've gotten.

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#3 of 15 Old 08-27-2011, 08:57 AM
 
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My oldest is the insecure one.  My youngest, not so much.  I think most of it, at least in our case, is genetics.  My side of the family tends towards being high strung.  And no, this is not because of the home environment because I wasn't raised by my dad.  I saw him about once a year.  He is extremely high strung.  DH's family is sublimely calm, and he more than any of them.

 

So, some of what you are experiencing is just they way she is, possibly made worse by her dad's own insecurities.  

 

When I deal with an attachment/ insecurity issue, I tend to take a step back, let the fledglings back into the nest for a rest instead of trying to assure them that staying out and flying is what's best.  Your dd is already coming up with one way to make her feel better--calling her dad when he goes out.  Why not?  Your denials loom large in her eyes, I am sure.  I find that once a child is reassured, after a while they start to feel better.  Not that this changes them or that eventually she will stop wanting such reassurances.  But she will feel better.  That is your foundation.  You won't change her core, don't try to change her core.  But you can ease her fears.  

 

My sister once complained that her 2yo was pitching a tantrum every time her bb and bs went to school.  So, she tried getting her to sleep in later.  Still the tantrums.  As a nanny, I knew that what she needed to do was to let her have that goodbye moment.  To make it absolutely routine. Say the same things, watch them till the bus picks them up then wave for exactly 43 seconds, say one last "see you later" and then done.  It worked.

 

Finally, don't examine why's and wherefore's about your child's choice of parent to be most attached to.  This is so common in families and doesn't need fixing.  What you do need to is be the supportive parent she needs when her daddy isn't there.  Be her ally.  Be two members of the Daddy Fan Club.  That way you can shore up your end of the structure.

 

 

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#4 of 15 Old 08-31-2011, 07:36 AM
 
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As many PPs mentioned on the other thread I disagree with your suggestions about what causes anxiety. My oldest child was just born that way. She was anxious as an infant. There was nothing my dh or I did to make her anxious. Now, I'm not saying that some of your DH's anxiety couldn't be rubbing off on your DD, but I doubt it's the root cause. It's more likely to just be in her personal make-up, possibly with some genetic component, maybe from your DH's side of the family. My dd1 is so much like my MIL in temperament. Sometimes it drives me crazy. Dd2 is much more like DH or me. Even if your DH did have a scary childhood that doesn't mean it caused his anxiety. It may be a perfectly natural response to events that went on, but maybe you can imagine another person who would take it in stride (Oprah, or somebody) and not let the same kinds of events get them down. His propensity toward anxiety was understandably exacerbated by some scary stuff. Probably the same thing is happening with your child w/o the scary events. Your DH's anxiety may be rubbing off on a child with a natural inclination to be anxious. That doesn't mean he's the cause of it. Even if he were able to overcome his anxieties she might still be a very anxious child. Neither my husband nor I nor our dd2 are very anxious people, but it still popped up in dd1, age 10. Her 7 year old sister is much more willing to separate and take chances than she is. Same parenting, no scary events, just different kids. 

 

All, that said, the main thing about anxiety in general and separation anxiety in general is to take baby steps, but keep moving forward. If you avoid the anxiety producing situation that will just compound the problem. Any book on anxiety will tell you that much. Likewise if you push too hard it will make the problem worse, too. You will have to go on your gut instincts as to what's too much and what's just right, but just keep plugging away at it and it will have to be a long term strategy. 

 

Does she have many friends in your homeschooling circle? I would start by cultivating friendships. You can have the kids over to your house if it's easier, or you can all get together at a park. Sometimes a little peer pressure can be a good thing. As she sees other kids separate more easily it will become easier for her. I do think homeschooling and all being together can be problematic for anxiety if you don't take steps to expose her to many situations so that she can take those baby steps with a gentle nudge. We strongly considered homeschooling for dd1, but went with a small private school because we feared that homeschooling would lead to avoidance behaviors on dd1's part. We have many friends who homeschool and have a great network we could plug into, but it didn't feel like the right thing for dd1. I think dd2 would have been fine with it, but dd2 is fine with school, too, (as is dd1). I think a lot of kids have some separation anxiety at 6, though, so I don't think it's out of the norm, although she should be fine being with you, too.

 

As far as being with you, I would start by having dad go out of the house on a regular schedule for a short time w/o her, like maybe every Tuesday he goes to the gym, or goes to meet a friend, or does something grown up. It can be for as short a time as half an hour, but work to extend that. She will be okay with you and she knows it if she's done it before. While she is with you, distract her with something especially fun, a movie or book on tape, or art project together — whatever works for you and her. Your DH should find something regular he wants to do, even if it's just go browse a the bookstore, but a class to take or something that meets regularly and has that outside pressure would be even better, so he doesn't skip. It's important that this be a regular part of life for her. It would also be great if you could find something similar also. 

 

I've got to run, but I'll be happy to talk more on this subject later. We had a hard road of it with dd1, but mostly she's okay now in familiar environments and separates pretty readily at friend's houses, school, dance class, etc. She could still easily have trouble in an unfamiliar environment. 


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#5 of 15 Old 08-31-2011, 08:07 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not committed to my opinion to the point that I won't change my mind, but talking this out. I don't think DD is an anxious person in general. So I don't think she's ruled by a general personality characteristic that makes her anxious. She has anxiety about one point only: she wants to be with her dad. 24/7.

 

If you look through my history, there's a thread I started about DH not feeling comfortable about letting DD go over a friend's house (without him being there). There are things like this, which DD is aware of, which to me clearly communicate HIS anxiety to DD. That is, DD hears that DH is not comfortable with her being without him, so naturally she feels not entirely safe in this situation. As another example, DH recently took her to the YMCA for her weekly gymnastics class. It seems like most parents stick around but some drop off their kids and go work out or whatever. DH sticks around, which is fine. But anyway, we had a schedule problem that day, where we needed him to pick up something at the store and needed it fast - so the obvious suggestion was for him to run to the store during the class, then come back (no doubt in plenty of time before the class was over) and then he'd be there to take DD home. His reaction was "no way" - and this was in front of DD. Not a huge deal in itself, but just trying to show that DH's words and actions are clearly communicating that DD is in danger (or something) without him. Maybe DD would have some reasonable anxiety about him running the errand during her class, but she's getting a clear message that it's bad to be away from daddy. Much different from her expressing anxiety about it and us saying "ok, hon, daddy will stay with you if you're worried."

 

Trying to say it another way, DH is not reacting to DD's anxiety. He is the one with the first objections to her being away from him. There is just no way that DD is going to feel secure enough to get beyond her own very natural need to be with her parents (which usually gradually fade as the child gets older) when she also has to convince DH of this too.

 

Also, isn't it telling that she doesn't have any separation anxiety with me? I'm her mother, you know? Don't kids usually want their mothers? But with DD, it's only her father she is scared of being away from, and it's only her father that is scared of being away from her. I let her play in the back yard while I'm doing dishes at the window, but if DH finds out he makes her come in. So the kid cannot play in her own back yard unless a parent is out there, which is hardly ever. I don't know if I'm clarifying anything, and like I said, I am open to having my opinion changed. If there is a reasonable argument for how DH's anxiety is not causing DD's, and how DH's anxiety will not cause DD to doubt her ability to protect herself as she grows older, I will definitely consider it. And I'm definitely not interested in doing the typical forced separation approach to solving this, not at all. I don't think that helps separation anxiety at all.

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#6 of 15 Old 08-31-2011, 12:07 PM
 
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Wow, I could have almost written your whole post!  I can relate to nearly everything you wrote.  My 5 1/2 ds has bad separation anxiety.  We can't even leave him with my parents.  Just 2 weeks ago we decided to get him some professional help - someone who can give him tools on how to manage his anxiety so that he can do things on his own. I asked around and found a therapist who is open to different parenting styles.  I think she is pretty mainstream, but she knows we co-sleep and homeschool, and she is ok with that. I just didn't want someone who was going to "help" my son by telling us to get him out of our bed and "cut the cord".  Our first session is Friday.  I am really hoping it goes well

 

Whatever you decide to do, I do not think it is your fault that your DD wants you and you dh to be around.  My ds is the same way.  I think it is more about the anxiety and not so much about you not being enough for her


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Quote:
Originally Posted by beanma View Post

 

 

As far as being with you, I would start by having dad go out of the house on a regular schedule for a short time w/o her, like maybe every Tuesday he goes to the gym, or goes to meet a friend, or does something grown up. It can be for as short a time as half an hour, but work to extend that. She will be okay with you and she knows it if she's done it before. While she is with you, distract her with something especially fun, a movie or book on tape, or art project together — whatever works for you and her. Your DH should find something regular he wants to do, even if it's just go browse a the bookstore, but a class to take or something that meets regularly and has that outside pressure would be even better, so he doesn't skip.

 

 


This is what I was going to suggest.

 

I would also like to that my experience with separation anxiety has had hills and valleys.  My most separation prone child would have months or years of developmentally normal independence, only to occasionally slip back into  separation anxiety mode.   For some people separation anxiety may go away and stay away forever, but that has not been our experience.  It is much easier to deal with if I can just take it in stride.

 

I reread the last post and I do get that you think Dh is playing a big part in this.  Sadly, though, it is really hard to change another person.  You can talk to him, and it may help - but it may not, you know?  

 

I would approach the issue from my POV.  I would say that I wanted some alone time with Dd to bond a bit more and help her move past always needing to be with you.  This is what you want as her mother.  I would talk about my own needs rather than discuss DP's issues at this point as it might make him defensive.  

 

How is your DH doing?  It can be hard (btdt!) on the parent and lead to burnout if they never get any adult or alone time.  

 

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#8 of 15 Old 08-31-2011, 12:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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He seems ok. He did, as my other (older) thread chronicled, come to accept DD going over a specific friend's house for playdates, without him (or me). This speaks of the great trust he has for this particular family. So he's finally gotten a few breaks from time to time. He is also the nighttime duty person, so it's true, he's a dad 24/7 with almost no breaks. And a great one, too.

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#9 of 15 Old 08-31-2011, 04:57 PM
 
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Well, from the additional details you've provided it really sounds like maybe an issue that's more for the "parents as partners" or "mental health" forums. I think it sounds more like your DH has some problems he needs to address. If your dd is willing to stay at the playmate's without either of you and he has "come to accept" that then that doesn't point to insurmountable separation anxiety on your dd's part, but on your dh's part.  If she begs for dad when he runs an errand and she's left with you it sounds like she needs to get more used to that happening or something. The way you describe your dh's attachment to your dd sounds a little over the bounds of normal, but that's not true separation anxiety IMO, but more of an issue with your DH. 

 

If she's truly anxious it's in her personality. What you're describing sounds more like something else.

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#10 of 15 Old 09-02-2011, 07:03 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beanma View Post

Well, from the additional details you've provided it really sounds like maybe an issue that's more for the "parents as partners" or "mental health" forums. I think it sounds more like your DH has some problems he needs to address. If your dd is willing to stay at the playmate's without either of you and he has "come to accept" that then that doesn't point to insurmountable separation anxiety on your dd's part, but on your dh's part.  If she begs for dad when he runs an errand and she's left with you it sounds like she needs to get more used to that happening or something. The way you describe your dh's attachment to your dd sounds a little over the bounds of normal, but that's not true separation anxiety IMO, but more of an issue with your DH. 

 

If she's truly anxious it's in her personality. What you're describing sounds more like something else.

 

ITA with this.  

 

And also this:


 

Quote:
Obviously, everybody in America would immediately say that this caused the separation anxiety that DD has. We should have put her in daycare when she was 6 months old, then preschool. Dropped her off everywhere just for the sake of getting away from her. I don't believe it, though.

I know you're being sarcastic but that kind of attitude isn't helping you, IMO.  That's like an MDC parody of the rest of the world that's not based in reality,but perhaps in insecurity or something?  I don't know.  Anyway nobody has ever told me (or anyone else I know) that kids should go to DC when they are 6 months old.  And you think 'mainstream' america is dropping their kids any chance they get?

 

It's that kind of nonsense that divides.

 


DS (6.06), DD (10.08), DD (05.11).

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#11 of 15 Old 09-02-2011, 07:52 AM
 
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quote:  

 

"Obviously, everybody in America would immediately say that this caused the separation anxiety that DD has. We should have put her in daycare when she was 6 months old, then preschool. Dropped her off everywhere just for the sake of getting away from her. I don't believe it, though."

 

I do not take it as sarcasm.  I take it as reality  (minus the word "everyone")  I have run into numerous people who believe kids from a very young age should be separate from their parents.  It is where terms "cut the apron strings" and "cut the umbilical cord" come from.  It is rooted in reality.  Indeed the "expert" in the Op stated parents had issues with separation from "day one."  

 

I am not stating this just to argue with you, I tend to think American culture does promote earlier independence of children (often tied with getting parents  off to work ) than may be developmentally appropriate.  

 

 

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#12 of 15 Old 09-02-2011, 08:06 AM
 
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". Dropped her off everywhere just for the sake of getting away from her."  that wasn't sarcasm?!


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Originally Posted by D_McG View Post

". Dropped her off everywhere just for the sake of getting away from her."  that wasn't sarcasm?!



No  greensad.gif

 

You are lucky if you have not heard such things.

 

 

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#14 of 15 Old 09-02-2011, 09:12 AM
 
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"Everybody", "everywhere".  This is exaggeration, not sarcasm.  And yes, it is rooted in some odd reality than is strangely contradictory.  We anguish over giving up our babies into the care of another, yet somewhere along the line, people start believing that a parent who won't "share" their baby is not socializing, not preparing them for the real world.  Attachment to parents is unhealthy, though if you said that to someone as an interpretation of what they are implying they would wholeheartedly disagree.  

     My sisters pulled this argument on me when my oldest was an infant and unhappy with anyone but me or dh. My MIL and many many other people I've met were vocal that I should "get out" and "get a life for myself".  Heaven forbid we homeschool!  And I can't tell you how many times I've heard parents say they are enrolling them in preschool/ kindy to "get them out of the house".  (I try not to judge because I know that I can't know every situation, but it still is a shock when people say this--and in front of their kids!)

     I am the parent I am because my mother valued independence over everything else.  *Her* mother was an overbearing busybody (and how!) so I get it, but I felt a little like a dingy that gets tossed behind the big boat without a rope and is expected to grow up to be a full-size boat.  (It worked in a really **cked up, dysfunctional way.)

 

     So, yeah, while it is certainly exaggeration to say "everyone" "everywhere" etc etc, unfortunately it seems to be the paradigm.  It is *what is expected*.  How every one feels about this deep in their heart might be one thing, but their words and expectations say another.


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#15 of 15 Old 09-02-2011, 10:40 AM - Thread Starter
 
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There seems to be some sort of relationship between exaggeration and sarcasm, but I was really just leaning on the exaggeration side. It was just easier to say "everyone" instead of "in the predominant culture." I figured you guys would get the gist.

 

With people I have observed (family members, acquantences, etc.), yes, they specifically create opportunities for their children to be away from them, to foster independence. While I don't claim to know all of her motivations, I do know a SAHM who puts her child in daycare because she feels it's good for her. There was a tremendous amount of pressure placed on us to send DD to preschool, and the reason appeared to be solely to get her used to being away from us so she could transition to school. (Nobody mentioned learning, fun activities, anything - just indepedence). Anyway, I don't have any need to argue that point, I just figured everyone would get my shorthand on that. I don't feel any particular frustration there, I was just acknowledging, for full disclosure, that my situation would appear, for many people, to have been caused by us not taking that route.

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