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Separation Anxiety


carmen
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hi all -yet again I need to pick your brains please??!!

I have one parent who is suffering terribly from separation anxiety. The child (youngest of 3) has been with us for around 12 months now, and is generally happy when in the nursery. She is very able, socialises well generally no issues. Mum however is very anxious about leaving her and the child has picked up on the signals and plays on them. She has gone through months of separating easily, but now its to the point when mum would happily sit all session for no apparent reason.

Mum feels very bad about this and is continually apologising, and often in tears - its a real issue for her. She says she's really happy with the nursery and trusts us implicitly - she just can't leave thinking her daughter might be upset. I feel its becoming more apparant now the child is approaching school age.

 

How can I help her, does anyone know of any parent friendly advice on the subject. As an outsider its easy for me to say ' you know she'l be fine' 'we'll call you if she needs you' etc, but that's just not enough. Its the most severe case I've come across

 

carmen

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I wonder what she was like with her other children? Perhaps ask her about this, if she was fine with them then perhaps a chat about why she finds it so difficult with her youngest (does she fear not having anyone depend on her anymore?)

 

Also my first suggestion would be is there a room away from the main room that she could sit in instead so that she drops the child off and leaves the room and is completely out of sight, no staying with the child or anything? That way she is still on the premises and this might ease her fears about leaving the child upset and the child will stop being able to play up to mum thus breaking the vicious circle which is developing.

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Do you need to 'get rid' of the mother if the child is settled? Why don't you put her to work as a volunteer ....it sounds to me as if she is fearing her loss of a 'job'when her child goes to school....so why doesn't she stay,as long as it is not detrimental to the child she could be really useful to you, cutting out,reading stories, washing up etc. etc. :o

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Thanks for your comments.

We are really happy for the parent to stay - however the child does not have the best experience when she's around. She can be clingy and doesn't really interact with the other adults. Her experience is much more positive when mum leaves her. Also I feel that telling mum she can stay isn't really helping the situation in the long term - not that we would turf her out of course! I agree she feels she's 'loosing her baby', but its not a great situation and we are sympathetic.

 

Her other daughters are older 14 & 11, and she did have some difficult situations with both of the in nursery situations - not ours. in fact we had long conversations about whether she would send her daughter at all. But I think we are past this to a degree - she is always very complimentary - I just need to move forward with her for her sake not ours!

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I wonder what she was like with her other children? Perhaps ask her about this, if she was fine with them then perhaps a chat about why she finds it so difficult with her youngest (does she fear not having anyone depend on her anymore?)

 

Also my first suggestion would be is there a room away from the main room that she could sit in instead so that she drops the child off and leaves the room and is completely out of sight, no staying with the child or anything? That way she is still on the premises and this might ease her fears about leaving the child upset and the child will stop being able to play up to mum thus breaking the vicious circle which is developing.

 

 

Sadly no, we have no spare space that mum could use.

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ok i understand :o what about giving mum something to do at home for you- does she have a talent? or could she do some prep for you at home....we had a mum of a child with ASD - she couldn'tcome in as it upset her son too much but we found out she was really good at art - we asked her to do a large frieze for us (gave her all the stuff for it) when it came back it was amazing. It really made her feel part of the group and we emphasised how much help it was for the children and her son.

couldshe knit/cut/draw etc. otherwise just another chat with her saying what a good mum she is and how good this is for her daughter to be in the setting - i'm assuming you don't think there is anything more severe behind the scenes?

P.S. sorry wasn't suggesting you chucked parents out!!!!

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I had a mum who was anxious about leaving her daughter. As you say, this is easily passed to the child so that separation becomes a trial for both of them. There are obviously deep psychological fears at play here which can't be ignored or brushed over. As you say, it is easy to say 'She'll be fine' but that isn't really going to change the anxiety that this lady is feeling. In our case the mum had lost a baby previously and she obviously felt she needed to be there to protect her daughter constantly to prevent the same thing happening again.

 

We worked with the mum and she stayed with her daughter for months. As time went on she was happy enough to be diverted into helping out in different ways. She took on organising and cleaning our storage cupboards resources and completely updated our inventory and developed a cleaning rota. She helped with the snack preparation and did most of the washing up. She also sat at some of the quiet tables playing games, helping with puzzles and reading stories. Eventually she decided for herself that she would start to leave her daughter - this was never going to happen before she was ready.

 

I think all you can do is continue to be supportive and work alongside her. Make sure she is aware that she is welcome to stay, but that equally when she is ready you will work with her. In the meantime I would try to divert her during the session so that her and her daughter gain some space away from each other. :o

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Mum sounds a little low in confidence or perhaps lonely??

 

My friend found it very difficult when her youngest started nursery, she was unhappy in her marriage and floundered a little - too much time to think about her situation without her son there to distract her!

 

Perhaps giving her tasks to complete at home is just the distraction she needs.

 

Nona

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Also I feel that telling mum she can stay isn't really helping the situation in the long term - not that we would turf her out of course!

 

While I know you can't just throw mum out and I'm not suggesting you should I do think you are right in what you say here. Telling mum she can stay really isn't helping anyone, least of all her daughter who should be the main concern. If daughter is nearing school age (ie. going in September) then this needs to be sorted before then. She might be able to stay for the first day or morning or whatever at school but after that I suspect most schools would get tough and turf her out straight away because they aren't going to want her hanging around for a variety of reasons, one of which is that a lot of schools just don't let parents through the door anymore for safeguarding reasons.

 

That actually makes me think of another point. Are you sure you're allowed to have her there for the sessions everyday without her being CRB cleared? That may sound silly and a bit over the top but I'm thinking from an Ofsted point of view here. I was under the impression that it was amount and regularity of contact which counted, not the capacity in which she is there, nor whether or not she is getting unsupervised access to the children. The idea of this is that an adult who is around regularly in a safe environment is then seen by children as a 'safe' figure outside that environment, hence they need to be CRB cleared. Of course I would agree that it is rather daft that a parent who wants to stay with her child would have to be cleared but like I said I'm thinking about how Ofsted might view it given their current obsession with safeguarding and the fact that it sounds as if she is staying nearly everyday.

 

Perhaps you could use this as a reason for kick starting her with reducing the time. Perhaps you could agree that next week she will make sure she is gone by a certain time, then each week bring the time forward. So if your session starts at 9, perhaps she will agree to leave at or before half 9 no matter how her daughter reacts (pick a reasonable time, if you think 10 might be a better starting point go with that!) Each week she has to leave 10 minutes earlier until finally she is dropping her off and going. Whilst she is actually in the room agree with her that she will do certain tasks as others here have suggested, not sit and interact with her daughter. Once her daughter sees that mummy is busy (which surely must happen at home!) she will hopefully settle down to tasks knowing that mum is in the room and not leaving, then when it comes for her to leave it should be with minimum fuss on mum's part. Of course this would only work with mum sticking to it, but it does sound like she is upset about the situation and wants to be able to leave but just doen't know how to.

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We have had similar situations in the past and each has to be dealt with on its merits. Some we have gently pushed to leave and others we have encouraged to stay for as long as required, CRB checking them and virtually employing them in some cases. It is very difficult but unless mum is happy with the child there, you are on a hiding to nothing insisting on either course of action as the negative feelings will be passed on to the child. Perhaps a frank discussion with mum about what she would like to do would be best, and take your lead from her. We have had worries about a mum before now whose child was going off to reception class and we ended up telling her she was welcome to pop in any morning to visit us and help us out while the child was at school. It didn't last as she soon settled herself down and found other more exciting things to do. But it paid off in spades with the recommendations she gave to others about our setting.

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Ohhhh this is so hard!

I like your ideas about giving her a task to do at home - she was real keen to have a job a christmas party, so that might be a way forward.

 

Carol - that's kind of where we're at just now.

I'm not sure about the CRB situation, hadn't thought of that. As its maybe 5 hours in a week max not sure - does anyone know the answer?

 

Holly I like your idea about the offer of using nursery as a base when child in reception- might ease that situation, but not really helping just now. we have had so many discussions with mum and i think she is so scared about what her daughter will feel if she doesn't do what she wants. mum i want you to stay - oh I better had then .

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With regard to the CRB we just get them done anyway. It is free of charge for volunteers and we send them through to the umbrella group we use for staff (TMG for us). It makes things much easier if mum decides to keep helping if you know you can ask them to pop in the bathroom to help some one run the tap!

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Each case it different.

We had similiar- in the end the staff were feeling stressed as the child was not getting any benefits from coming and they felt awkward trying to encourage child to join etc- the child would have mega tantrums and scream the place down.

 

In the end we bit the bullet and told mum that after half-term she was to come in leave child, say goodbye and just go.

Sounds harsh - but we said leave her for 15mins then come back, then 30mins etc..... (we did but it nicely :o )

Well the first day mum said good bye and left...........she then rang up after 15mins and asked if she could stay away longer!!

within two weeks child was totally settled and happy and mum is so happy- she just can't keep thanking us enough.

 

I feel there is know real answer, we just have to do whats right for the individual case- makes our job even more difficult and things can go either way. Our mum could have got upset with our suggestion and left- but as we saw it the child wasn't getting benefits ...........but it turned out well for us in the end- with both mum and child really happy now.

 

xx

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I'm not sure about the CRB situation, hadn't thought of that. As its maybe 5 hours in a week max not sure - does anyone know the answer?

 

Yes you do need one, anyone seeing the children more than once a week needs one I don't think it matters for how many hours they see them at a time.

 

 

In the end we bit the bullet and told mum that after half-term she was to come in leave child, say goodbye and just go.

 

This is what I personally would do in this situation as well! I was being diplomatic with my last post because I wasn't sure if I'm just quite harsh, but I'm glad someone else has ended up doing this too! This is what will happen to her once she goes to reception anyway.

 

 

i think she is so scared about what her daughter will feel if she doesn't do what she wants. mum i want you to stay - oh I better had then .

 

Is mum like this with everything to do with her daughter? In other words, is she a spoilt brat! Either way perhaps you could actually have a chat about how this isn't good for her daughter's emotional development from a very professional point of view. There's always a risk of coming across like you're trying to tell her how to be a parent which might be a worry but if she's in tears and apologising it sounds like she might actually be open to some sort of 'professional's opinion' about the whole thing. Maybe she just needs a huge dollop of reassurance that leaving isn't going to damage her daughter and pointing out that staying might actually be doing harm (in a subtle way!) might be the push she needs.

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I was just wondering how you are getting on with this parent and how you had decided to tackle the issue? I'd be interested to hear about what's been happening.

Edited by Guest
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I was just wondering how you are getting on with this parent and how you had decided to tackle the issue? I'd be interested to hear about what's been happening.

Well .. after much deliberation we kind of think that the issue is mostly around mum being unable to make that descision to leave herself - therefore becoming the baddie that her daughter will be upset with - so we have decided to suggest to her that she let us decide when she should leave. this means its us being the baddies not her, so she doesn't have to make the descision.

Sounds really complicated doesn't it - its a really tricky situation

Let you know what happens

Carmen

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