Why separation is hard and how we approach it.

For the past 6 months, we have been working to support our 3 year old transition into being away from the home. and feeling safe and secure whilst doing so. Clearly it’s taken (a lot of) time, support, what feels like over-communication and endless amounts of empathy, and, we are getting there.

As part of preparing for the transition I have been researching, and talking with people who specialise in child and adolescent psychology. I feel more comfortable when I have a framework to consider and advice to follow. I found this was particularly useful when emotions were heightened for our son, which can stir up equivalent types of feelings in the parents. So for me having a framework, however rudimentary, allowed me to feel like I had options in the heat of the moment. I thought you might find some of our learnings helpful.

1. Let all the feelings be valid: Spending time naming and empathising with our son allowed him to feel understood and supported.

2. Get a plan: Once we realized he would need extra support, we used his teachers and a free Australian parenting phone line (Parentline) staffed by psychologists and social workers to map out an approach that was straightforward and intuitive – and you guessed it, supportive. 

3. Wait: We had to wait longer than we were comfortable with until he was comfortable with us leaving. There was a lesson for us in being able to tolerate personal discomfort. 

4. We knew he was ready before he did: One day we just knew. He still maintained that he wasn’t ready, but we knew he needed our help to build confidence to do it. So with our support team, away we went. We implemented the plan we built together. 

5. It’s still hard: He’s been successful now for over a month, but we still spend a lot of time talking, reminding him of his success and helping him by keeping the goodbyes short – prolonging them leads to more distress for him. 

6. Celebrating his successes: His first week was hard for him, yet he was incredibly proud. Using our thrift shop champagne glasses we toasted his success and talked about his strengths in overcoming his fears. We talked about his bravery. He glowed.


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