The sounds of blood curdling cries fill the church hallways as moms attempt to leave their babies in the nursery. Your volunteers are determined to shower love, care and patience. They use every familiar skill in their arsenal to hush and soothe, only to discover the tears of “separation anxiety” rage on.
At about six months, babies develop representational thinking, which means that they can picture objects and people in their mind. They days of “out of site out of mind” are gone! When a parent or familiar person “disappears” from a baby’s sight it produces separation anxiety in them. Here are some practical ways you can help ease anxiety as you minister to them.
- Greet parents and babies warmly. Love on both parents and babies to ease anxiety. Greet and talk directly to each baby (even if he or she is crying) and parent as they arrive.
- Help parents to establish a special good-bye routine. Often parents try to sneak out while their baby is being distracted. Sneaking out may save the parent from hearing their baby cry but it increases separation anxiety. They need the comfort of a familiar good-bye routine. A high-five, tickle, flying kisses, a hug or a familiar phase are ways parents can establish a routine. Discourage belaboring, and stay calm.
- Create a story flip book for each baby. Ask parents to bring photographs of the baby, parents, siblings, pet and favorite objects. Include captions with each picture that say, “God made (name of the baby), God made mommy and daddy, God loves (name of the baby), God made (sibling names), (name of baby) loves to play with (favorite object).” Use it as a storybook. This can be a great source of comfort.
- Establish a consistent nursery routine and schedule. Fight separation anxiety through predictability. Prepare them with transitions as you move from Bible songs, to story time, to snack time and playtime.
- Allow babies to have their security object. Familiarity breeds security. You can help reduce separation anxiety by allowing them the comfort of their blanket or a stuffed animal.
- Pray for the babies as you hold them.
- Ask parents to be consistent in attending church during the separation anxiety stage.
- Encourage parents to pick their baby up as soon as church ends.