About sneaking out
For many parents, stepping out of the house may seem like a heavy task, with our child clinging to us, asking us not to go or crying when we step out or showing open and intense protest when we step away even for a daily unavoidable chore. When this happens on a daily basis, multiple times, sneaking out seems like an easier option. If the child doesn’t notice us leaving, the child has no reason to react and you get to leave without causing a commotion and that has to be the right thing. This logic leaves out a big part of our worlds, the emotional.
Now imagine yourself being dependent on a particular person for everything when it comes to the physical world and even to feel safe. Imagine being with this person, then getting really engrossed with something and then when you check again, you can’t find this person anywhere. If you can imagine the anxiety and fear it might bring for you, it is exponentially more for this child who has no means of independently looking for this person and especially when things are about survival. Yes, survival, since the child doesn’t understand concepts like ‘later’ or ‘after a while’ or ‘waiting for some time for you to return’ etc.
- Sneaking out directly affects the trust in the relationship with your child
- If the child knows that they will be told before the parent leaves, the child doesn’t need to check again and again if the parent is still around. The child can then focus on their exploration with the trust that the parent will let them know if the parent needs to leave. This trust builds gradually and provides our child with the solid foundation of safety necessary to operate optimally in the world.
- The practice of letting your child know that you are going to step away, for what duration, small or large and that you will be coming back after that also helps your child build a sense of time corresponding to different activities. Eg. the time it takes to pee, the time it takes to take a shower, the time it takes when you go out for groceries, the time it takes when you dress up and go out for work and so on.
- When you need to step away, go close to your child, look into their eyes with assurance and let them know that you are going to go for a while
- Tell the duration (make sure you are honest here)
- Tell them what you are going to go away for
- Tell them when you will be coming back
- Tell them who you are leaving them with
- Ask that person to be around the child to soothe the child if necessary when you actually leave. (refer to the steps from the blog ‘Handling meltdowns’)
- Make sure you don’t prolong this goodbye for longer than necessary
- Be patient and consistent
- Make sure you hold your child close and make them feel loved when you come back
Note: Children have their own pace of building this trust. Working on trust at all levels helps to speed up the process.