8 Tips for Dealing with Separation Anxiety

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Today I am thrilled to have Sensory Mom from the Sensory Mom Secrets blog sharing some tips for dealing with separation anxiety.

8 tips for dealing with separation anxiety from a mom with a daughter with sensory processing disorder (SPD).

Separation anxiety, as a Mom is both heartbreaking and frustrating all that same time. We’ve dealt with it for years and I’m excited to share a few tips with you that may help you with your child. We’ve dealt with it in an extreme amount and at one point I felt like she’d probably be taking her favorite blanket with her to college, it does get better!

We have a few things that come into play with our daughter. First of all, we adopted our daughter at birth and I am a stay at home Mom. After that, she also has Sensory Processing Disorder and is delayed socially and emotionally. All of these things combined, add to a high level of separation anxiety for our daughter.

It’s never too early or too late to work on this. If you can start early, great. If you haven’t started yet, but think this might be an issue for Kindergarten start now! We recognized this may be more of an issue for us and we found short opportunities where she would need to be away from me in an environment where she is comfortable. It’s important that it is short so that they learn that you will indeed come back. Start small and grow the time as you and your child become more successful each time.

8 Tips for Dealing with Separation Anxiety

Find someplace that is comfortable for you and for your child. A place for you that you trust and know they will be respectful of you as a parent. If after several attempts it doesn’t get any better it may be the environment and you may need to try somewhere else. As a Sensory Mom, we have to think in overtime about things like: the lights, the noise and even the smells. All of those things may make your child uncomfortable and if they are too young to tell you it just might not be the right environment to work on separating.

A few places we tried:

Early Childhood Classes. This was where we had the most success. We got to play together for the first part and then separate for a parent meeting while the kids played. The teachers and staff were all extremely professional and compassionate about helping myself and my screaming child through this challenge. Although, I was embarrassed at how long it took to accomplish this successfully, I should have been celebrating that she wasn’t running and screaming after me as we separated! Give yourself grace and know that it takes time and lots of patience.

Activities. We had great success with working through separation anxiety by getting our child involved in activities and finding her interests. She hated separating from me for dance class but ran out on the field for soccer. It’s also great to start with parent and child classes and work your way into child only classes. It helps build your child’s confidence and they will feel safer doing the activity with you on the sidelines later.

Gym. Our gym has a really great child care area. But, Miss Sensory was not interested in it. I’m not sure if it was the noise or too many kids in a small area. It was not a great experience.

Grandma. Our daughter loved Grandma but it was still a challenge to separate there.

Other places you might find:

  • Mommy and Me groups.
  • Mom’s Day Out
  • Church Organizations, such as a MOPs group.
  • What helped us.

Having something tangible. Bring something they love, a stuffed animal or blanket. As embarrassing as this might feel as a Mom, I promise they won’t go to Kindergarten with it. This made a huge difference for us. She could have something that she could hold and keep with her. It her feel safe and brought her comfort. It also smelled like home, which is so comforting.

Watches and bracelets. Miss Sensory loved getting to wear something special from Mom and Dad that she got to have just when she was away from us. We told her that every time she missed us she could be reminded that we love her and that we would be back in just a little bit. We use the spiral key chain kind (with the key ring removed), it acts as a fidget and  as well.

Wrist sweatbands. Wear them for a few days or spray your favorite perfume or essential on them so they have your smell. Give them to your child to wear on your wrists. Show them how they smell like you so that they have “you” with them. This can be really calming for our sensory kids.

An easily distracted child. Sometimes some of the challenging areas can become opportunities. Our daughter was always easily distracted so this was great for Grandma to use in sitting down to read a story or playing with something that would take Miss Sensory’s attention off the fact that Mom was leaving.

Give lots of choices. Help your child feel in control in the moment by having lots of choices, this works well for older preschool kids. Do you want give mom a high 5 or a hug goodbye? What are you going to play with first the truck or the train? What friend do you want to sit by Jane or Ryan?

Games to play that help build emotional development.
Peek-a-boo. Surprisingly, peek-a-boo is a great game to play at all ages. It builds joy and develops a child’s ability to know that you are coming back. Think about that anticipation stage and the anxiety that they feel as they wait for you to say “boo.”
Hide and go seek. Is great for kids who are a little bit older, knowing that you will come find them and giving them that sense of independence as they find you

Bio: Sensory Mom blogs her way through parenting a child with sensory processing disorder at Sensory Mom Secrets. She shares real life stories, the real mess of it all and finding real hope along the way. You can also find her on Facebook.


Sharing with: Teaching Mama

Heather Greutman, COTA

Heather Greutman is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with experience in school-based OT services for preschool through high school. She uses her background to share child development tips, tools, and strategies for parents, educators, and therapists. She is the author of many ebooks including The Basics of Fine Motor Skills, and Basics of Pre-Writing Skills, and co-author of Sensory Processing Explained: A Handbook for Parents and Educators.

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  1. My daughter with SPD has also struggled with separation anxiety. I LOVE the idea of a special “separation” bracelet! I am going to have to try that!

  2. Thank-you for sharing your tips! You sound like a wonderful mom!

    My daughter has sensory issues, and really struggles with separating from me. She is 5 years and 3 months.

    The separation anxiety became sever over the last 4 months. I have opted to homeschool her and see how it goes but she is scared for me to leave her even at well known friends where she has previously been very happy to stay and play with. She is petrified to have me out of her sight. I find it concerning.

    Any advice?


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