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Why bidding your child goodbye is important

Your leave is over and you have to go back to work. Or you have to step out of the house to attend to other important tasks. Do you let your little one see you depart and risk tantrums or sneak out of the house unnoticed?

Betty Muindi @BettyMuindi

When time come to leave for work, Susan Nekesa’s two-year-old daughter’s reaction can be anything from a kiss and hug to ignoring her to a flying screaming fit. “Many times I feel so guilty for sneaking out on her.

When I tell her goodbye, she cries so much even long after I have left,” says Nekesa. But when she is happily colouring or playing with her toys, the temptation to slip away is great.

Mercy Achieng shares the same sentiments. “My son breaks into a crying fit whenever I leave the house. It is heartbreaking,” she says.

She says for about six months, she has had to leave the house early when the baby is still sleeping or wait until he leaves the room then she makes a dash out of the door like a pro.

It is normal for babies and young children to be attached to their parents. Children want to feel protected, and the closer they are to their parents, the safer they feel.

So, it’s understandable for a child to start crying if their parent suddenly disappears from sight. To avoid this automatic crying fit, mums sneak out of the house, but experts say that it is better if your children see you leave.

Philomena Njeri, a child psychologist says before parting, it’s best to calmly, but confidently tell your child where you are going and that you would be back as soon as possible. “Although it is painful to see them cry, it’s the healthiest thing to do. As they get older, they will understand that you always come back home after you leave,” she offers.

A mother of three children all above five years old, Njeri says it took her a while to understand this. “With my last born son, I had developed a habit of leaving the house unannounced and disappearing from his sight when he was distracted.

When he realised I was not in the room, he would spend a lot of time running around the house looking for me. I realised this harm, when one day he got scared and thought I had left him yet I was just in another room,” she explains.

Will be back soon

So, Njeri made up her mind to help reduce his anxiety. When she had to leave the house, she explained that she would only leave for a few minutes and then return. A few weeks later, her son would happily tell her goodbye and even tell her to bring a fruit or a snack of his choice when she came back.

“For younger children start with brief periods of separation and gradually make it longer (leave for half-an-hour, then an hour, half-a-day then several hours.) to ease the transition,” she advises.

“For older children, it is important to explain to your child that you will leave, but will return, or else even a five-minute absence can cause children to panic. Over time, the child will understand that mother always comes back after all, and their crying fits will lessen in time and frequency,” she retorts.

She tells parents not to worry about crying. The crying won’t stop immediately, and maybe not even soon. Tell the caregiver of your child to reassure the child and distract him with something he likes. Always letting your child to say goodbye even when he cries will allow him to get used to the pattern and thus eventually balance out his emotions.

Sneaking out on your child without warning can generate insecurity and a lack of protection. Leaving without saying goodbye also creates anxiety for your baby because she never knows when you might disappear. Being consistent in your goodbyes will keep her from living in constant fear, always needing to have you within arm’s reach.

“Good communication and emotional bonds even when the baby is young generates an emotional support in your child that would affect them for their whole life,” she concludes.

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