It is natural for young children to feel anxious when you drop them off at the nursery or say goodbye. Although this can be very difficult for parents, it is a normal stage of development. With understanding, patience, love, faith and trust, it can be relieved and should lessen and fade as your child gets older. In the early stages of childhood, crying, tantrums or clinging to father and mother are actually healthy reactions to separation. Separation anxiety can begin before a child’s first birthday and pop up again or last until a child is four years old, but both the intensity level and timing of separation anxiety vary tremendously from child to child. One way you, as the parent, can ease your child’s anxiety is by staying patient, loving, and consistent and by gently and firmly setting limits.
At SojournKids, we want to journey with you and serve you during these times of separation from your precious children. Please know that your Sojourn servants are willing and able to assist you. We do so with joyful hearts, knowing that our service to you and your child allows you to enjoy a time of worship. Your children are being cared for and loved by the childcare servants of Sojourn!
Here are a few tips to help ease your anxiety and the anxiety of your precious one!!!
General Guidelines for Easing Separation Anxiety:
- Develop a “good bye” ritual. Rituals can bring reassurance to your child and can be as simple as a kiss bye or a wave.
- Leave without fanfare. Tell your child you are leaving and that you will be back soon, then go—don’t stall, just go!
- Practice leaving your child. Leave your child with someone for a brief period at first to help him/her experience your leaving and returning.
- Keep familiar “things” when possible and make new surroundings familiar to your child. When your child is away from home or a familiar surrounding, allow them to have a “lovey” or favorite blanket for comfort. Visit the unfamiliar location so your child can see where they may be going to be left with a caregiver.
- Try not to give in. Always reassure your child that you will return and he/she will be just fine and will have fun—setting limits will help the adjustment to separation.
If your child is experiencing separation anxiety in SojournKids, we want to help minimize that anxiety for you and your child. Here are a few “tried and true” guidelines to help:
Preparing a Child for the Weekend Worship Gathering
During the week prior to the service, parents will need to repeat a simple phrase, repeatedly using the same words to encourage your child about attending SojournKids. An example of this might be:
- “Susie, you are going to children's ministry this weekend and Daddy and Mommy are going to worship. We are all going to learn about Jesus!!!
- Miss (Insert your child’s teachers’ name here or you can say “your teachers”) loves you so much! We know you may not know your child’s teachers’ name, but if you do, then using it will help familiarize your child with the class he or she is entering. If you don’t know your child's teacher, please ask at the next gathering so that you will be able to give your child this encouragement.
- Daddy and mommy love you so much too!
- You are going to have so much fun with your friends and Miss Teacher!
- We are going to worship, but we will come back and get you!”
The key here is to use the same phrases, the same words of encouragement throughout the day and EVERY DAY leading up to the weekend gathering. Even though your child may be young, we encourage you to do this. This consistent “encouraging talk” to your children, is very helpful.
On the day before the gathering, parents will need to continue these words of encouragement--reminding the child that he/she will be going to children's ministry with his/her friends and teachers on the next day. Say these words of encouragement / plans for leaving him/her repeatedly throughout the day.
On the day of the gathering, you will want to encourage your child by saying “We get to go to SojournKids today and learn about Jesus! Daddy and Mommy are going to worship and you are going to children's ministry with Miss Teacher! You are going to have so much fun! Your teachers love you so much. Daddy and Mommy love you too! We will be back to get you!”
Your Quick Drop-Off:
- When you arrive at the Sojourn Kids desk, give your child’s name, get your child’s nametags and put them on your child’s back and belongings. Make sure you are saying the same phrases to your child that you have been saying ALL week (This is consistency and your child is familiar with all that you are saying at this point and anticipates what is next…)
- Give him/her to the Sojourn servant, say bye-bye, “Daddy and Mommy will be right back. Have fun!”
- Smile and be very encouraging as your child is being taken to his/her room.
If Separation Anxiety Continues:
- SojournKids servants are trained to allow a child to cry for up to 15 minutes after drop off before paging parents. If the child is still upset and crying, the parent is called to return to the SojournKids area.
- One parent, either the father or mother (please be consistent), will go back to the door of their child’s room, escorted by a Sojourn servant, kneel down to eye level of their child, (Do NOT pick up your child!) and say the same phrases that you have been saying ALL week. Be encouraging, loving and reassuring! Kiss your child and Leave Quickly!
- You may wait in the Sojourn Kids area just in case these steps need to be repeated.
- If the child is still crying two or three minutes later (minutes 17-18), return and repeat the same process. Be quick, encouraging, loving and reassuring (Do NOT pick up your child!).
- If the child is still crying two or three minutes later (minutes 18-20), return and repeat the same process. Be quick, encouraging, loving and reassuring (Do NOT pick up your child!).
** PLEASE NOTE:
The Sojourn servants are willing to love and serve both you and your children during this season of parenting adjustment. They are serving in SojournKids because they desire to care for your children and so that you can attend a worship gathering without having to care for your child. They love your child, and that is why they are serving in this ministry. Allow us to minister to YOU so that YOU are free to worship the One, True and Living God!
Testimonies from Sojourn Moms:
Being new parents, we had a really difficult time helping our (now) oldest child deal with her separation anxiety. After ELEVEN months of picking her up from the nursery every weekend because of her extreme reaction to separation, these guidelines were suggested to us. For two weeks, we had to continually visit her room to comfort her. Yet almost immediately after those initial weeks, she finally understood we were not leaving her forever and would not pick her up simply upon her crying demands. For the first time in a year, we were able to enjoy and be spiritually fed during worship without interruption. Because of the advice we’d been given with our first child, when our second arrived, we had little hesitancy, knowing he would be well cared for and loved on during his struggles. – Terra Santos
I have had the wonderful privilege to serve in Sojourn Kids and work with children suffering from separation anxiety. The steps outlined take time and patience, but they will work. The workers in SojournKids love you and want to serve you well so you can be free to worship. - Robyn Crowe
It was a privilege in a weird sort of way for Tom and I to go through this. We learned so much from it. First and foremost, we learned to trust in the Lord. We wanted total control over the situation and now we feel that only made it worse. I felt like Ryver's crying was bad for the workers and other kids. As soon as he started crying I wanted him out. As hard and scary as it was to hear Ryver scream back there, the workers reassuring me that they would handle him was such a blessing. What a blessing it was to hear the workers say, 'We are here to serve you and Ryver!" It felt strange at first, but they were so willing to work with not only Ryver, but Tom and I. –Franny Binkowski