When Your Child Won’t Let Go: Coping with Separation Anxiety in Young Children

When Your Child Won't Let Go: Coping with Separation Anxiety in Young Children


My son, age four, is struggling with going on a playdate or over to another child’s house for a party. I go with him and stay with him the whole time, but he doesn’t want to leave my side until it is almost time to go, and then he gets upset because we have to leave.  


Please know this is not unusual, and there is nothing wrong with your son. During the pandemic, our kids were mostly isolated and didn’t have a lot of opportunities to work on the skills they needed to be comfortable around other kids, especially kids they didn’t know.  
When our child struggles with something today, we may project that struggle into the future. I do this with my grandkids as well. Our child hesitates to join a group of kids, and we worry they won’t have friends as adults. We fear they will have no social life or miss out on opportunities because they don’t speak up for themselves.  
Let’s zoom back in and realize my child’s struggles today aren’t a predictor of his future success.
Next time you are at a playdate or party with your child, he hesitates to join in. Tell your child,
“Something about this feels tricky. I’ll be with you, and you can stay by my side for as long as you want. You’ll know when you are ready to go and play with the other kids.”  
Lending your connection and presence to your child’s hesitancy in a social setting lets your child feel seen, heard, and understood. It is the single best strategy when it comes to helping your child in these situations.