Children naturally learn to detach from objects. They learn that the object was there and is now gone. They have a whole host of emotions. Later on that understanding is challenged (another layer, so to speak) of desire to have ownership of said object. How odd it must be for a child when a loved one is absent. It makes me wonder if we expect too much from children emotionally. Some parents have a decent way of interacting with their children on matters of emotions, others do not, most are somewhere in between.
Children have emotional expectations. Parents have emotions, ideals, values and discipline with which to contend. Whew! What an enormous job to raise a child. This article, uses Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence to think through what a child might be thinking, feeling or needing while dealing with separation anxiety.
Keeping away from despair is a key consideration for a child who is separate from their loved one. To connect with a child who is disconcerted is typically about trust. What level of trust is dependent on what level of disconcert the child is facing, who you are to them, and what type of social situation you are in.
Playing a game, sharing common information, being introduced to other people can all reduce anxiety. Wondering if the child is wondering what you are after is key to understanding where they are in their comfort level. Being practical about getting the child back to a person that is missing is imperative.
The issue of control is huge for anyone experiencing separation anxiety. What that person provided for them emotively is now missing. There may be an urgency in the little one’s way…looking to identify themselves within the context of the “dance” that they had with the person they are now separated from.
Do they have effective ways of filling in this missing reciprocity? Will the dance they knew before change it’s rhythm, it’s timing, it’s inference? What will help the inner person of this person be at ease.
Appeasing suspicion with words may be something like: I’m sure everything will be ok…They will be back shortly…I know they care about you more than they can show right now. When a child is suspicious of your intent, do not become defensive. A child has a right to be suspicious. It is often how they build trust.
So to reason aloud with a child who has anxiety, is typically calming, non-judgmental, and measured. By this I mean, the ownership of difficult emotions is for the adult. If a person is experiencing the stress of separation, it is somewhat up to the person speaking to put their heart at ease. Do they know they are cared for? Have they had their practical needs met? Will they enjoy being around you for a while or do they need distance?
Control becoming tangible is often manifest in play. Children and young people who are experiencing separation anxiety need a forum for play. Toys, paper, crayons and the like are necessary for self-expression to lead toward understanding. First intrapersonally and then interpersonally. How one shares their art is often also interesting.
Arranging and rearranging seem to be a way of controlling space for someone who is missing someone. This may be a useful way of assigning a task to someone who has more stress then they know what to do with, particularly if the task is one they used to do together. The observer should consider trigger of emotions a valid, addressing them if there is trust.
Do the sights that the child is experiencing cause discomfort? Remember we are trying to keep the child from despair. Are there environments that the child is used to seeing that you can talk about? How would you contrast and compare what they used to look at compared to what they are looking at now.
Is there a depth perception issue that is causing discomfort? Look at something far away and talk about what will change, turn around and have them look as far away and talk about what it was like before…and then what it is like where they are now.
Moving around and excitement go hand and hand. Providing boundaries for movement is like controlled freedom. To lose oneself in a dance, for example.
Too much restraint may mean too much belligerence, too much movement may mean too little comfort. So boundaries and rules and freedoms would be what a child needs to thrive kinesthetically. Not mentioning the inspiration of availability: music, instruction and encouragement.
Music affects a part of us that is sometimes better met by sounds. Emotions are so often inexplicable. Separation anxiety is often discouraging emotions. Beating a drum or playing a piano or listening to classical music, may be the thing that helps them persevere. The hurt of illogical circumstances often causes misbehavior or discontent. Music can counteract painful notions of abandonment, by joining sounds, ideas or rhythms ‘elsewhere.’
Logic and reasoning have ‘gone into another room’ of cognition when someone is anxious. Oft times the logic that is readily available becomes a bit more whimsical when a loved one is away. The person that is anxious, after all, may be dependent on that person for decision-making, security, and a relatable affect.
There is more opportunity to want for discipline, but lack the relationship emotions that bring to pass cooperation. So the dynamic is less than beneficial when hurt emotions are confused or rebellious. Logically children should behave: logically the circumstances should not hurt.