Separation Anxiety

Our bags are packed and sitting at the front door waiting for my dad to pick us up and take me to the airport. I'm headed to Charlotte, N.C., for the She Speaks conference, and my girls are off for their annual four days of GrandCamp with my parents. Last night, I put two children to bed sobbing because I'm leaving today. I'm sure tears will be shed at the airport.

However, I'm also equally sure that my girls will have a great time with their grandparents (and come home incredibly spoiled--ice cream every day, anyone?), and I will have an amazing time at She Speaks. We'll get home on Sunday with so much to share with each other.

Leaving our kids for any reason is tough. Fear of the unknown -- anything could happen while you're apart -- sometimes keeps us from letting go when we should. I've met moms whose kids are 6 or 7, and they've never had a babysitter. This isn't healthy for you or your kids. It's impossible to keep your marriage fresh and vibrant if you and your spouse never spend any time away from your children. It's also important for your children to learn that it's ok for you to go away because then they know that you will come home.

Our goal as parents is not to keep our children constantly sheltered under our wings, but to let them grow wings of their own and eventually fly out of the nest. We need to trust that God has our children under his protection and let them venture out on their own into new experiences without mom or dad always hovering at their side. Eventually, your children will need to leave home and stand on their own. You want them to be confident in themselves and their faith when they do so. That training starts at home, and it starts early. When your children know that they can do some things without you around, they become more confident, and they learn to rely on God.

If it's hard for you to leave your kids or for your kids to leave you, work together to overcome your separation anxiety.

  • If you're constantly worrying about your kids when you leave them or your kids are constantly worrying about you when you leave, you need to turn the worry over to God. Easier said than done, I know. However, worry is a sin. Jesus said  in Matthew 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life..." The best way I know of to conquer worry is to capture the worrisome thought, give it to God and replace it with scripture. Some of my favorites are Matthew 6:25, Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28.
  • Leave your kids with a trusted sitter and go on a date with your husband. Your children need to know that your marriage is important, and that it needs time without them around to flourish. Go out to dinner and a movie. You don't have to be gone more than a couple of hours, but it's good for you and it's good for your kids to know that mom and dad place a priority on having some time together for themselves.
  • It's hard to leave when your kids are crying, but many kids will stop almost right after you leave. My youngest was awful. She threw a screaming fit every time we dropped her off at her class at church until she was almost 2. The teachers told us that almost as soon as the door closed, she was fine. That may not be true for every kid, so if your child has trouble separating from you, start with short time periods and work your way up.
  • Prepare your kids before you leave. We've been working up to me going on this trip for the past month. We've talked about it. I've shown them where I'm going. I've assured them that if they need me they can call or text me. The girls are still a bit unsure of my going, but they feel more confident because they have some knowledge about where I'll be and what I'll be doing. Unless it's unavoidable, never spring a trip on your children. It's easier for them to accept your leaving when they understand why you're going and when.
  • Teach your children that no matter where they are or where you are, God is always with you. In Matthew 28:20 Jesus says "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Talk with your children about how God can see them and is always there even when you can't be. They can talk to God any time, anywhere, and He will hear them.

Our children are precious, and time spent away from them can cause us anxiety. Remember, though, that in the end, time spent away from each other can refresh both you and your children. And, no matter where you or your children are, God is there with each of you.