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Abandonment anxiety - any tips?

(30 Posts)
acanthus Fri 07-Oct-11 10:00:52

With the recent arrival of a new baby sister two weeks ago my two and half year-old grandson is still worried about mummy and daddy not being there. Daughter went into labour after his bedtime and so both parents were not about when he awoke the next morning. Despite being back the next evening from hospital, he is still saying 'Mummy come back? Daddy come back?' He has obviously taken on our reassurances to a certain extent, telling me on the phone yesterday 'Mummy alway come back..'
but it is heart-wrenching and I am worried that any other unavoidable absences will increase his anxiety. I know it has only been two weeks, but any advice would be welcome.

Baggy Fri 07-Oct-11 10:15:12

It's only natural that he should feel a bit anxious at the moment. I think it will lessen naturally too, in time. My youngest brother was very clingy as a small child because twice, at a similar age to your GS, my mother 'disappeared' to hospital — once because of a miscarriage and once with pneumonia. Tom was bundled off to grandma's one time but I'm not sure about the other. The rest of us (four) stayed at home and carried on going to school. I suppose my father managed with the help of kind neighbours as we had no relatives nearby and he still had to be at work. Anyway, for a while (a year or so) Tom would not take his coat off in anyone else's house just to show that he wasn't staying! And he would screw his feet up in a shoe shop so that they either couldn't get his shoes off or couldn't try any new ones on him. My mother had to buy two pairs that she thought might do and try them on him at home on the understanding that she could take one pair back.

em Fri 07-Oct-11 10:18:12

I do think this is a short-term issue. It's similar to starting at nursery school when the separation anxiety shows for a few days until the child sees the routine falling into place. Mum/Dad goes away but always comes back. It does help to be able to say a properly reassuring 'bye-bye and see you soon' which clearly they couldn't do as they rushed off to hospital but it really does sound as if he is working it out for himself. Maybe in a little while, plan a few very short absences just to give him the opportunity to see that he really is being told the truth?

Butternut Fri 07-Oct-11 11:50:04

Baggy - I take it you come from a family of 5 kids, like me.

I'm a twin - is anyone else out there in the gransnetting cloud one, too?

acanthus Fri 07-Oct-11 13:34:14

Thank you Baggy and em - that's reassured me.

jinglej Fri 07-Oct-11 13:40:31

I would avoid any overnight stays away from Mum and Dad at the moment. Think that can reinforce the anxiety.

glammanana Fri 07-Oct-11 14:22:13

I've got a twin brother,enough said

Butternut Fri 07-Oct-11 14:36:47

glammanana - Yeah, I get it. Me too.

glammanana Fri 07-Oct-11 15:23:31

butternut he's alway's right never made mistake's alway's had a decent job and prospect's there is nothing he has not done,he had mum up the wall when we where 10/14yrs old alway's self opinionated and loud,still the same to-day,he now live's in New York and work's for a newspaper where no doubt he's probably the Editor (no I don't think so) we get on well if he stay's in US and I stay here,fleeting visit's over the past year's and it's my turn next Easter to go to him but only for 5 day's that's enough.

HildaW Tue 11-Oct-11 18:19:16

Acanthus, get a copy of the children's story book 'Owl Babies' the moral of it is that Mummy always comes back. Its a lovely story (my Grandson's favourite at one time). I used to use it to help the new ones settle into a pre-school I once ran.
We had the care of nearly 3 yr old GS whilst his Mum and Dad dashed into hospital for her second but we picked him up and had him stay here for the two nights. I think that because he sees staying with Grandma and Grandad as a bit of adventure ( he has done it before and his Mum is not always with him) so he did not miss her at all. (Shhh dont tell her).
As em suggests, perhaps if you can pop around to his house a few times and play with him whilst Mum takes baby for a little walk around the block he will be reassured.

bagitha Tue 11-Oct-11 20:01:35

We liked that story too, hilda.

jinglej Wed 12-Oct-11 12:26:18

I bought that one for my gs Hilda. Its lovely! smile

Carol Wed 12-Oct-11 12:58:57

Hi butternut, I'm mother of twin girls, both of whom are mothers to twins, one already has 3 year old boys and the other expects twin girls next month. With regard to separation anxiety, I have found it helps to 'disappear' for a couple of minutes with reassurance you are coming back, then increasing the time gradually so that the child gets used to you being reliable about coming back to them. By the time they are 3, a chat on the phone when you're not there is reassuring and will tide the child over, too. Also, I have watched my nephew, as a child, slide down the door sobbing for his mother as she left the house, then overcome his anxiety as soon as he was distracted. And the great idea about staying at grandma's has worked for my family - the child believes mummy is still waiting at home and doesn't show the same anxiety.

HildaW Wed 12-Oct-11 18:17:49

Carol, you've hit it on the head...if they are with Grandma they dont know that Mum is not at home. Also when they are at this age you dont have to go into too much detail. I dont believe in telling fibs but if they dont actually ask 'where is Mummy?' then there is no need to say much. Also a very general 'You will see Mummy/Daddy very soon and a bit of distraction with a jolly messy activity that Mum is often too busy to do, sorts it all out. Icing cupcakes for example, is a great way of taking little minds off of such worries.

ukebra Thu 14-Mar-13 14:33:54

My 3.5 yr old GD has suddenly started to be terribly upset at being parted from her Mum. Mum is a single parent who works full-time, and GD has been in nursery since she was 1, and took it in her stride; never any separation issues at all. She has been at this school since Sept 2012 and has been absolutely fine, until a couple of weeks ago, when she became inconsolable at being taken in. The school say she is fine as soon as Mum has gone. I have been heavily involved in her upbringing and she has stayed with me from birth, but now the same thing is happening when Mum leaves her with me - a panicky screaming attack and she fights to get to the front door to run after Mum, although she's fine after a few minutes. We keep calm and reassure her but every morning is the same, and it's distressing for all of us. I took her to school one day, and she proudly showed me round, where her coat goes etc, but as I kissed her and left, meltdown! When we try to discuss it with her, she just says "I want you to stay for ever and ever". We have racked our brains to think why; I'm sure it's just a phase but neither of my girls suffered from this. Nothing at all has changed in her life in any respect. Any ideas?

janthea Thu 14-Mar-13 14:41:41

My GD is three and a half and ever since her brother was born just over a year ago, she hasn't wanted to sleep alone. At some stage in the night, she turns up in her mummy and daddy's bed. They awake in the morning to find her. She has said that she would like to share a room with her brother in bunk beds and suggested that she and her brother could sleep on the top bunk and mummy and daddy could sleep in the bottom bunk!!

My DD hasn't wanted to have a fight about it just yet. They moved into a new house in August and my GD started at nursery. Lots of new things going on in her life.

ukebra Thu 14-Mar-13 14:54:14

That's what is concerning us - there hasn't been any change whatsoever in her life! I should add that it is also the same now with her gymnastics class; Mum has to stay with her for half an hour until she suddenly runs to join in, whereas before she just threw herself into it without a backward glance. And when she is collected from wherever she is, school, mine, she is fine; there's no rushing back to Mum/me, she happily continues what she was doing and sometimes has to be coaxed away!

Jadey Thu 14-Mar-13 15:18:29

We as Adults under estimate children's understanding of things.

He just needs an explanation and so I would just let him know what happened.

Mum and Dad needed to go to the hospital because it was time for baby to be born.

He will then be able to make sense of why they were not there in the morningsmile

harrigran Thu 14-Mar-13 16:02:46

Overheard conversation perhaps ? something as simple as " I am thinking of going away " as in going on holiday but a child may think the mother is thinking of leaving them.

JessM Thu 14-Mar-13 16:13:05

Its just darn tough being 2.5 I'm afraid. Mine suffered from separation anxiety from this age through to starting school. Neither of them went through mum an dad disappearing and coming back the next day with a new baby that needs lots of attention.
To put a bit of perspective on this : my DH was hospitalised twice when around 2 - he had an injury that required eye surgery. His parents were unable to stay with him in hospital. A new, premature baby sister had just arrived in the family. He is perhaps a little insecure but may have been anyway manages to be a fully functioning adult with a successful relationship and career.
I am sure this little one will come through this particular life crisis and be fine.

wisewoman Thu 14-Mar-13 16:16:12

ukebra I think as children get older their imagination develops - especially if they are bright "thinking" children. We don't always know what has made them anxious in situation where they were never anxious before but there is something going on in their minds. The difficulty is to find out what it is!! I am sure many of us have been in this situation. Sometimes we get answers and sometimes we never do. Have had a few examples of this with my own DC and DGC!

Hunt Thu 14-Mar-13 19:46:25

My DD is over 50 but I can still remember her little face when I asked her why she was suddenly crying when left at school. She looked at me with a little screwed-up face and said''I feel so sad when you walk away''

Anne58 Thu 14-Mar-13 20:00:02

Although not something that can be done when mothers have to leave to go to hospital etc, I did find with DS1 (who is now 34 shock ) he was much happier when leaving us, rather than us leaving him.

For example, if my mother collected him from our house, took him to hers, overnight stay etc, fine. However if we dropped him off at Grandmas, then drove off, major upset.

I think the reason behind this was if he left us , as far as he was concerned, we were exactly where he left us. On the other hand if we dropped him off at Grandmas, then drove away, he couldn't "place" us, so to speak. In other words, it seemed to make a difference as to who did the leaving.

Does this make sense?

NfkDumpling Thu 14-Mar-13 20:34:57

Perfect sense Phoenix.

When I was a childminder I had a similar problem with one little girl who just didn't settle and, although she seemed ok, would keep asking when her mum was coming back and was obviously anxious. What worked was a peg doll, a special little doll, which her mum gave her to keep close and look after while she was away. She gave it back to mum on her return and she only had it while they were separated. It reassured her that mum would return and I had a happy child within a couple of days.

Ylil Fri 15-Mar-13 07:31:25

We are having problems with our g/daughter. Mum drops her at nursery and we pick her up and have her till mum comes home about 4.30.

All was well until recently, now when we pick her up, she tries to hide, and or runs off to stand by teacher crying and saying she doesn't want to go home!

We don't know why, nothing has changed at home, she always has a lovely time with us. She's fine once we get outside and chats away like nothing has happened.

Any answers?

Any suggestions?

We don't know how to deal with this. Dil tells her we are picking her up.