Separation Anxiety and VBS

Separation anxiety can appear in infants as early as six months and may continue through the child’s first year. This is a difficult time for parents, children and caregivers! But with patience, love and understanding, it too will pass.

Remember, your VBS program is five days in length for one week (assuming you are following the traditional schedule). The infant or toddler’s enrollment in this program represents a deviation from the child’s normal schedule and routine. Couple this with the absence of his parent (or parents) and small wonder the infant or toddler cries in fear and frustration!

How should VBS workers treat separation anxiety? I have a few suggestions.

First, it may be helpful for church staff to post a few “tips for parents of young children” on the church’s blog or Facebook page prior to VBS week dealing with the issue of separation anxiety.

  • On your way to VBS, talk with your child about the people she will meet, the toys she will play with, and how she will learn more about Jesus.
  • Develop a “goodbye” routine with your child—a hug, a kiss and a wave goodbye, or whatever you decide to do; the normalcy of the routine will help your child know what to expect next and will eventually help ease the separation.
  • Check on your child only if you intend to remain for the remainder of the session, so that your child associates your return with leaving.

Second, volunteers or staff working in the nursery and preschool area should make every effort possible to personally hold crying infants or toddlers. Children who develop attachments to strollers or baby swings or any other artificial method of soothing will miss out on a crucial opportunity to bond with other adults in the church.

Third, to help the child bond with more than one adult, volunteers and staff should be encouraged to “exchange” infants or toddlers so that the toddler learns to build a bond with other adults. A child who bonds with multiple adults will be more trusting of future teachers, less anxious, more confident and more emotionally healthy.

Choose your volunteers wisely so that your infant and toddler VBS classes can be the best they can be—where infants and toddlers are cared for by those who are passionate about that age group and are willing to go the extra mile to care for all their needs—physical, emotional, social and spiritual, while they are in their care.

May the Lord bless you as you prepare for VBS in 2014.