Managing transitions can alleviate stress, but the ultimate goal should be helping a child overcome their fear of separation. With a little work and some persistence, even the most timid kids can learn to detach without a fuss. Here's how:
A) Ask yourself: Are you sending a child mixed messages?
Let's face it: every parent wants their child to need them. It provides a satisfying ego boost. This is why parents can end up supporting their child’s anxiety without even realizing it.
If you've ever worked in child care, you'll encounter this all the time. Some parents seem flat out disappointed when their kid runs off to play without incident, remarking something along the lines of "Ugh, look at that, she doesn't even need me," before turning to walk back out the door.
And when children DO exhibit separation anxiety, this same conflict of interest between a-parent's desire for hassle-free exchanges and their need to feel needed can wage a subconscious tug-of-war. What often emerges is a convoluted message that contains mixed signals: "I'll be back before long, but don't worry, nobody here is going to chop you up into pieces and feed you to alligators while the world's most fantastic mom is away on her business." This is an exaggeration of course, but you get the idea. Parents want to have their cake and eat it too, trying to offer comfort while simultaneously supporting their child's over dependence on them.
If your child is struggling with separation anxiety, it's important to take a critical look at your own attitudes to see if you might be sending them mixed signals like this. If you feel guilty about leaving them or secretly feel a tinge of pride whenever your child starts screaming for you, it's likely this thinly-veiled attitude is coming through to them loud and clear.
Your goal should be to raise a child who loves other people and enjoys spending time with them, not one who merely tolerates them. You need to embrace the fact that other people can be just as awesome (or even more awesome in certain regards) than you are. You need to feel comfortable in the knowledge that nobody can supplant your role as a parent. Understand that a child's love is cumulative. It's not a limited resource that gets doled out according to the number of people involved. It's a never-ending well that gushes forth upon anyone who gets close.