M.S. asks from Conway, AR on October 15, 2007
3 Year Old Separation Anxiety
My daughter just turned three and is going through a hard time. Her dad is preparing to go overseas on a deployment that will last about a year. He is currently gone during the week and home most weekends but not all. Since he has left she has become more withdrawn around others, not her typical outgoing self. She doesn't like activities that she has to do alone, that previously she loved. Family and friends she once ran too, including dad when he's home, she will cling to me. Momma is all she ever wants. She asks weekly if I am going to leave her to. It breaks my heart. Has anybody ever been through this and if so, what did you do to make the transition easier.
Thanks for any help you can give me.
W.M. answers from Lafayette on October 16, 2007
M., I am a foster mom and have dealt with this anxiety before. She needs to be told over and over and over again, that her dad didn't leave her. He is on a job and will be back. She feels he left(forever) and is afraid you will too. Give her lots of comfort. This will also comfort you, too. Talk about him often and look at pictures. Discuss the pictures ("remember all the fun we had..." And "when dad gets back...". She is afraid of this transition. Hopefully she will be able to talk to him on the phone, often. And he also, should reassure her that he is working and not leaving. I hope this helps.
D.B. answers from Baton Rouge on October 16, 2007
My advice would be to encouarge your daughter and let her know that you and her father will always be tehre for her. Explain to her that daddy is away at work but, he loves her and misses her everyday. I would even suggest that you allow her to have playdates with other children to keep her occupied and focused on being a child. It may also help if her daddy can send her letters and call while he's overseas. I hope this helps. Take care.
S.A. answers from Baton Rouge on October 16, 2007
Wow, thats got to be really hard. Maybe you should just give her as much attention as possible. Show her that you love her and reassure her that you aren't going anywhere. She may think you are going to leave her too. Have family overlove her and give her some one-on-one time. I'm sure this is hard for her. I'm sure she just needs some reassurance.
R.L. answers from Shreveport on October 16, 2007
Well, my son went through separation anxiety when we was 3 and 4. The difference in my situation was that nobody was missing in his circle, nobody left, there were no changes. He didn't want to go to preschool and cried every morning when I would drop him off. He would ask me over 100 times (not exaggerating at all) "what time are you going to pick me up tomorrow?". His life was routine, I picked him up the same time every day. I didn't understand it at all. I took him to the mental health center and of course she said it was normal, kids that age do that.
Your situation is different though. She is more than likely afraid that you or anyone else she loves is going to leave her. She may not want to play alone because she may be afraid in her little mind that if she plays alone, whoever is there will not be there when she is done. She may not want to get close to others and leave your side because she doesn't want you to leave.
It can get frustrating explaining to your child over and over again that you are not going to leave her, but you have to hang in there and keep assuring her you aren't leaving and daddy will be back. Both of you just need to make the time you have together with her as special and as fun as possible. All of you are going through a hard time with your husband not being home a lot and having to leave soon. If you think it will help, take her to a counselor. They are trained to talk to kids and have a way to get them to talk. It may make her feel better. They can help you deal with this too.
Kids her age go through this sometimes without changes in their routine, having a change just amplifies it.
M.N. answers from Little Rock on October 19, 2007
When my husband went on his last deployment, we videotaped him reading stories and telling the kids good night and that he loves them. Maybe if you can, he can remind her when he is coming home and she can have a calendar and put stickers on each day until he comes home?
D.G. answers from Baton Rouge on October 16, 2007
First of all I'd like to say I'll pray your husband and your family that you will get through this time with grace and comfort.
Second, three year lil people are quite literal. If you say the sky is blue, they look up to see the blue sky. Three years old lil people are also very observant. She knows there are people fighting far away (and now Daddy is going there) and people die and never come back. Have you and Daddy sat down with your daughter and told her Daddy is going to be gone for a little while, but when he's done, he'll be back. Make it fun for her. Tell her we'll write him, and you can make special cookies for daddy or we send special presents to him. Even if she's clinging, get her involved in the process. If it's hurting her she knows it's hurting you too. And you must tell her Mommy will stay here while daddy is gone and I won't leave you, but if I do have to go somewhere or drop you off at school, I'll be back to pick you up. When Daddy comes home now, before he leaves, get her to hug him and say now you can put it in a jar and when you miss him, you can pull out a hug. So while he's here we must fill the jar all the way up. Basically, get her involved. She's going to be sad, but some of these things might help.
I hope some of this helps. And they do have Play Therapists you can send her too. They council with toys and drawing and playdo. God bless you and your husband and your daughter. Make sure you get a lot of support for yourself too.