My youngest son, S, struggles with separation anxiety. As much as I would love to hold him in my arms 24/7, this just isn’t possible. I have two kids that need my attention. I have a house to take care of, income to earn. I still need “me” and “husband-wife” time. I had to come up with something. My solution is a great way to ease separation anxiety in children and it really has helped us.
The Hug Jacket Method for Easing Separation Anxiety in Children
Separation anxiety in children can be debilitating for both children as parent. It’s hard to know what to do and gut-wrenching when you have to walk away for one reason or another.
You just want to hold your precious little one. You die a little inside each time he cries. You remind him that you’ll be back and you love him, but he just stars back with his big, tear-filled eyes, heartbroken.
Every night, I dealt with the puppy eyes and tears. I’d lie down with him when I could, but some times I had to leave or get something done. Every. Single. Night.
I would have to leave for a meeting and walk away from those puppy eyes and tears. The only place we did not usually have an issue was the church nursery.
Since I am a stay-at-home mom and I even homeschool, I am with my boys a lot. You’d think they would get sick of me and be just fine when I leave for a quick business trip or to get my nails done with a friend or to go to a women’s ministry meeting, but when I get home, I find out that once I closed that door behind me, they cried almost the entire time I was away.
Yes, it makes me feel loved and appreciated, but it also tears me apart. On one hand, I want to be with them always and never leave their side. On the other, I desperately need breaks and some time away to regain my sanity.
While it is difficult for me to leave my boys for some much-needed “me time,” I am comforted knowing there is a way I can help their separation anxiety and make them feel as if I am still with them when I am away.
Always Wear a Jacket
Everyone who knows me knows that I am always cold. Conveniently, I tend to wear warm jackets/cardigans over whatever my outfit of the day is. Even if I have a sweater on, I usually wear a jacket over it.
One night when S was really struggling to sleep, I was wearing my jacket and hugging him tight. He was patting his hand on my jacket and running his hand up and down my sleeve.
Neither of us wanted to let go.
My husband was overseas (being a military family causes more issues with separation anxiety in kids; deployments never help…the kids always think I’m going to leave too). I needed to get some housework done then kick my feet up in bed and have some time for myself. But S wasn’t having it.
I began to get up and he tugged on my jacket. I took my jacket off, wrapped it tightly around him, almost like we used to swaddle him as a baby, and got down close…
“This jacket is loaded with hugs,” I told him, “so when I have to walk away, just hug this jacket whenever you need a hug from me. I will see you in the morning.”
And that, my friends, worked wonders.
Note: I recommend always ending with when you will see your child next. Maybe you’ll check up on him in an hour, or you’ll see him in the morning. Maybe you’ll be back to pick him up when school is through. Give him that hope and reminder that the separation will end and you will be back. Then, be back when you say you will be.
The jacket was still warm since I had been wearing it. It smelled of me–I guess I have a smell? We all do…that’s funny to think about.
When my husband and I were dating, we were in separate states. I get separation anxiety as well, so he gave me one of his hoodies that he would always wear. I, uh, don’t think he washed it, so it definitely smelled like him…not sweat though, thankfully. I’d wear it everywhere so we felt closer.
Seriously, I don’t know how I hadn’t thought of the jacket idea earlier, since a jacket helped me get through that time we were apart years ago. I guess I’d briefly forgotten. (Disclaimer–please make sure your child is old enough to safely use a loose jacket in bed.)
So whenever S was scared or lonely or just really needed hugs from Mama, but I really couldn’t stay, I would “charge up” my Hug Jacket with extra hugs so it would be warm and hold my scent. He would ask for my jacket that I already prepared just in case he asked.
This jacket is loaded with hugs, so when I have to walk away, just hug this jacket whenever you need a hug from me. I will see you in the morning.”
He’d snuggle up with the jacket and be comforted. While he wouldn’t always go to sleep still, because we have a lot more issues than just separation anxiety at bedtime, it definitely would help then as well as during the day. Sometimes I would even give him my jacket if we were out somewhere and I wouldn’t be with him.
Have Several Jackets
Some children may need consistency and insist on the same exact jacket like some insist on specific stuffed animals or blankets, but focus on letting your child know that any jacket you wear can be loaded with hugs and you should be fine to switch up jackets.
Sometimes you really need a jacket to be washed or just to wear it out somewhere, so it’s good to have several options to alternate so you don’t find yourself without a Hug Jacket. Since I’m always cold, as I mentioned earlier, I usually have another one nearby that I can switch to when I walk away and that usually ends up being the next Hug Jacket I use.
Do yourself a favor. Start alternating jackets right off the batt.
We don’t always use the Hug Jacket Method, we switch up what we do so it doesn’t lose its novelty. When we do use a Hug Jacket, it really does help. Remember, Mama (or Daddy), it will get better.
My friend Mama in the Now has another great trick to help with separation anxiety in kids.
Give the Hug Jacket Method for Dealing with Separation Anxiety in Children a try for yourself and let me know how it works for you and your child!
Looking for more? View these categories!
Don’t be a stranger. Let’s be modern-day pen pals; subscribe to my newsletter!