10 Tips for Young Kids Dealing with Separation Anxiety During the Season
The wonderful and hard thing about my coach being an amazing father is that his absence is immediately felt.
My son is 8 and my daughter is 5. Their dad has been coaching since before they were born. Our son is incredibly sensitive and really struggles with change and transitions so we have a rough go at the start of every season. Our daughter seems to handle it a little better, but her response looks different than our son’s.
We especially had a hard time last year. The kids would go days without even seeing their dad. I received multiple phone calls from our son’s (who is mostly a rule follower) teacher regarding his behavior and our daughter’s Pre-K teacher asking me if there had been a change in the home because she would wake up from her nap crying about missing her Daddy.
I share this because I want you to know sometimes hard things are just plain hard. I believe it’s okay to acknowledge the truth!
However, I also know that we can’t stop at merely acknowledging the challenge; we have to work through it. Here are some tips and practical strategies we’ve seen help with our own kids experiencing separation anxiety.
Remember that kids sense our feelings.
If they’re really struggling, take some time to reflect on your own emotional state. Are there feelings that you can work through or need to talk through with your husband or kids?
Record a video of your husband reading your kids' favorite books.
This way, he can still read to them at bedtime, especially if that's typically his job. Or if they are missing him during the day, they can "spend some time" with him.
At team pictures, take pictures of your husband with his position players and your kids.
I got this idea from a friend. She takes individual pictures of her kids with each player, prints them and strings them along a wall in their house. Those players became part of the family home and their son knows who Daddy is coaching.
Make a "Dad Board."
Hang up a bulletin/dry erase board for the kids to pin schoolwork and write notes for dad to see on days they don't see him. He can write notes on their papers or respond to them on the dry erase board.
Create a calendar or chart to have a visual for what kids can be excited about.
I personally love Canva, a free online template database for graphics. Below is what I used this last year. I put the calendar in a plastic paper holder like this, and placed it in their bathroom. My daughter couldn’t read, so I’d try to draw a picture and if I couldn’t draw a picture she at least knew there was something to look forward to.
[gallery columns="2" size="medium" ids="1106,1107"]
Create a prayer calendar with pictures of your husband's players.
On each day, put a picture of one of his players and make it part of your bedtime routine to pray over that player. Your kids will take ownership of praying over them, get to know them by name, and feel like they are a part of daddy's job.
Ask your husband to send videos throughout the day.
We didn’t think of this until several weeks into our season, but my coach would send videos to the kids in the morning and they would watch on the way to school.
Try not to withhold discipline for misbehavior because you feel bad for them.
This is a struggle for me. I’ve learned (the hard way) it’s better for everyone not to give excuses for misbehavior because of a tough situation.
If your kid is especially sensitive to change and transition, accept that.
Don’t overschedule with sports, classes, activities, groups at the same time the season starts. I had to learn this the hard way with my son. As he gets older, I think we’ll be able to prepare him more, but at 5, 6 and 7, the start of school and the start of season is all he could handle.
Invite other coaches’ kids over or meet at a park or practice on a repeating cycle. (Mark it on the kids' calendar.)
Pray, pray, PRAY for more wisdom, more discernment, more insight, more ideas.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
There really is no full-proof strategy for dealing with missing someone. You know this because you miss your husband too. My constant reminder to myself is that my perspective guides my response. If we look for the “hard” in our situation, we are sure going to find it. If we look for the “good,” we are going to find it.
Hang in there, Mommas, and like Dory says, “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.”
Lindsey Freed is married to a high school football coach and they share two kids, 8 years and 5 years old. She loves the Lord, her family, and a good competition. She works full time at a university.