Psychologically Speaking: Parting is sweet sorrow

As tempting as it may be to sneak out without a good-bye and without the tears, it will make it worse for a future departure.

cry face 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
cry face 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dear Dr. Batya, My child cries whenever he sees me leave the house. I feel horrible as I walk out the door leaving him screaming, or worse, I get to work late because I don't leave. We rarely have a babysitter at night but if we do, we wait until he goes to sleep and then leave. Please help. - S.M. Jerusalem It is precisely because your son adores you that he protests when you go. While the crying may now occur only when you actually leave, with time, he may cry when your babysitter arrives or when he sees you getting out your car keys. It's not easy to be in his booties. Imagine caring about someone and having them leave without you. As a young child he has no sense of time and doesn't know that you actually will return. When you leave for just five minutes, in his mind it is as if you are going forever, hence his protest. As he gets older, he will learn that mommy leaves and also returns. You can help reinforce this through games such as peek-a-boo, drop the spoon, hide and seek, leaving for short periods and exuberantly announcing your arrival home and play-acting going to work by giving him a toy briefcase. By delaying your departure or trying to reason with him, it just makes it harder on both of you. It is best to leave quickly, in a matter-of-fact way, always say good-bye, give him a big kiss and hug and tell him when you will return. In this way you gently teach him that separation, while painful, is okay. Be honest with your son. If you are leaving him with a sitter tell him. At first he will be too young to understand, but by letting him know that you are leaving him with someone other than yourself, he won't be surprised if he wakes up when you are out. As tempting as it may be to sneak out without a good-bye and without the tears, it will make it worse for a future departure. If you want him to trust that you'll come back, he has to see that you are going. If he never knows when you'll be around and can't trust that you will be there, you may discover that he'll be reluctant to leave your side. Since you do have to leave, and should go out without him, let him know that you are going, and more importantly, let him know when you'll be back, in words he can understand. You can say, "I am going out now, I will be home... when it is dark outside," "...when the hand of the clock is on the number six," "...when the sun comes up," etc. Let him come to the door with the sitter and wave good-bye. When you arrive home, you can say, "See, it is dark outside, mommy is home." Bedtime blues Dear Dr. Batya, How do I convince my teenager to get more sleep? She barely rises in the morning and I have to wake her several times to get ready for school. - F.N. Ramat Hasharon I hear two problems. I'm not sure just how much sleep your daughter actually gets. The average teenager needs about nine to 10 hours of sleep a night. The second problem is that you are serving as her alarm clock. My rule in general is never do for children what they are able to do for themselves. In other words, let her set an alarm and be responsible for getting herself up and out the door. As long as you are willing to do it for her, she knows that she doesn't have to get up on her own. Encourage and praise her independence and increasing responsibility. If, on the other hand, she can't get herself up, clearly you need to let her know she needs more sleep. She may need to be in her bed 15 minutes earlier. If she can get up the next morning then you'll add back the 15 minutes to the desired 10 hours. If not, she may have to go to bed 30 minutes earlier. While you can't force her to go to sleep, you can tell her she has to stay in her room and the lights need to be out. Sleep is important and children with jam-packed days and a six-day school week just don't get enough. Sleep deprivation can affect your child's ability to focus, concentrate, remember details and impact her health, driving, judgment and mood. Talk to your daughter about a reasonable bedtime and have her suggest her own limits for television, computer and phone time. Have her make her own lunch and prepare her backpack and clothes the night before. Help her determine what needs to be done in the morning and how much time she needs to do it to get out the door on time. Often we allot too little time and then feel rushed, which is not the way to start a day of learning. To decrease stress and anxiety, help her learn how to plan now. Good time management skills will last her a lifetime. The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice in Ra'anana.