Creative ideas to help with separation anxiety

Children can experience separation anxiety at different times throughout their development and for a range of reasons. It may be due to starting playgroup, preschool or school, going away to camp, to a friend’s place for a sleepover, staying over at mum or dad’s place if they live separately, or perhaps the child or a parent is in hospital.

Children need to feel secure and connected to their caregivers, especially when they are away from them.  Here are 3 creative ideas which may help ease some anxiety.


Pocket Love (3 years and up*)

Many young children like to collect precious items, often seeking these from nature: stones, sticks, shells, leaves, clovers. If you can, spend time with your child collecting pebbles or small stones from the garden (or you can use shells). Choose ones that are small enough to fit into your pocket.

  • Paint onto your chosen item with something that represents your love for your child, this could be a love heart, a word, or colours. Your child can create one too. (Use white acrylic paint for the base colour, so added colours will stand out)
  • Explain to your child how your love passes into the stone or shell, you can hold it in your palm, even give it a kiss, telling them how much you love them.  It can be helpful to carry it in your own pocket for a time, before giving it to your child, to take with them. 
  • When your child is away from you, they can keep it in their pocket, take it out to hold it and know that your love is with them.  

TIP: It can be useful to make a few of these, if one goes missing, you always have a spare.

*Note: these are suggested age groups only and may vary depending on the individual child.


Invisible String (5 years and up)

A similar idea, instead using the concept of an invisible string*. A string that connects your hearts together and passes your love along the string, no matter where you are.  It can be helpful to get a ball of string or wool, to use as a visual tool, when explaining this to your child.

  • Give the end of the string to your child, get them to hold onto it, you hold the other end.
  • You can even move yourself (unrolling the ball) into another room, with the string still connected, to show them how it works.
  • Let your child know that you are always connected by an invisible string of love, no matter where they are. They could be at school, staying at a friends house, in bed, or even living a different house or city. It doesn't matter where the two of you are, you will always be connected through love.
  • I often add to this by asking the child to imagine what the string between you looks like, is it made of string? Ribbon or fabric? Is it light or heavy? What colour is it? Or is it invisible? By asking your child to use their imagination in this way, it will help them, when they are away from you, to visualise the connection between you.

*The above is based on a book called ‘The Invisible String’, by Patrice Karste, which can be purchased from online bookstores.


Little Notes (children of reading age)

A quick and easy idea, put a little note into your child’s lunch box, inside their workbook, pencil case, or under their pillow. Let them know you love them, and you’re thinking of them. Tell them what makes you proud of them.