The long goodbye: Do you sneak out on your kids?

Lately my 3-year has been having some separation anxiety with me. She didn’t care for last three years when I left to do things but lately she get upset when I say I am leaving. She runs after me and offers me repeated hugs and kisses (she says hugs and kisses, hugs and kisses). She does it a little bit to Michael but not as much.

So over the weekend when I went to run errands I just snuck out the door. I hate doing that because God forbid I die in a car accident and I didn’t say goodbye to my children or kiss them or tell them that I love them. But it did make it a heck of a lot easier to get out of the house!

In general when I say goodbye to anyone in my family, we always say I love you and I generally kiss them. When I take the big kids to school I say I love you and at the very least touch their hands or arms as they climb out of the car (depending on how fast they have to jump out). Michael always get an “I love you” and some days a kiss depending on where I am in the house when he leaves.

When I leave Lilina in the Y you would think I was taking off for a month in Europe. I spend at least five minutes trying to get out of there. (The Y staff said you just have to keep on coming, and in the last few weeks she’s calmed down about it.) My older ones did more of that stuff when they were younger.

Here were some tips I found on Babble about separation anxiety:

Mom’s anxiety

Child’s anxiety

Did your kids ever have separation anxiety? How did you handle? Do you ever do the sneak out just to avoid a long goodbye?

30 comments Add your comment


February 16th, 2011
1:06 pm

Separation anxiety is a phase that most all kids go through. I think the key is routine though. Once you say goodbye, you leave, then come back later. They cry & scream sometimes too. You’ve got older children so you know it gets better.

When we started going to a new church last August, my 2yr old screamed her head off whenever I’d leave her in the nursery. Now, I just mention we’re going to church & she’s ready to get dressed & get in the car. When we get to her class, she tells me goodbye & that’s it. It’s always hard to watch your child cry but when it’s just from them not getting what they want, when they want (which is what this is) they’ll get over it and adjust soon enough.


February 16th, 2011
1:07 pm

Oh, & yes I do sneak out when I know there’s going to be a fuss. It’s just easier that way.


February 16th, 2011
1:19 pm

Oh no! Theresa, some would say that separation anxiety past the age of 2 is something more than just anxiety. I only have internet research to back this up as my oldest is 2 years now. He rarely cried when we left. My baby is different. He already exhibits some anxiety by clutching me when we drop him off at the sitter’s. I hope he grows out of it.
Some parents actually like for their kids to get upset. I have a friend that used to drag out her good-bye’s in order to get the kids to cry after her.


February 16th, 2011
1:27 pm

I think some separation anxiety is experienced by most kids but the more familiar they become with the place or people they’re being left with, the less it should occur. When my son was 3, we went through this at his daycare for a long period of time. I finally got into the routine of dropping him off at the door. A quick hug and a bye and out I went while someone walked him to his class. It was always much more emotional if I walked him down to his room. Not sure why but it finally stopped after a couple of months.

@Spacey – sounds like demented parents who aren’t need acceptance and approval from their children. Those are the type of parents who want to be their kids’ friend more than their parent. Poor kids.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

February 16th, 2011
1:33 pm

We had issues with my son when he was three. Mom used to drop him off at daycare and he’d just sob and latch on to her. She’d stick around for a couple of minutes try to calm him down, then when it was really time to go he’d start crying all over again. She’d end up leaving as upset as he was. That’s when I took over dropoff. We’d walk in the classroom, put his backpack in his cubby, I’d kiss him on the head, give him a hug, say “see you tonight” and walk out. It took all of about 15 seconds. For about week, he’d be at the door weeping, with this look on his face like he’d just been orphaned. He’d run over to the window facing the parking lot to see me walking to my car and I’d just put a big smile on my face and wave goodbye. I swear he looked like that scene in “the graduate” where dustin hoffman is plastered to the chapel window screaming for Ally Sheedy not to get married! I’d tell him every night that if he couldn’t get it together and act like a mature kid, he could expect me dropping him off, the way that I was dropping him until he was taking a bus to school. Like I said, it took about a week and that pretty much solved our separation anxiety problem. It transcended day care to babysitters, leaving with friends, etc. He was a 3 year old…there was no way we were going to let him throw a tantrum and act like a jerk without uncomfortable repercussions.


February 16th, 2011
1:43 pm

We had trouble with this when DD first started at school just before she turned 2. As you’d expect, after a time she settled down and it was no biggie to drop her off. It’s just become an issue again about 2 weeks ago; most days she cries most pitifully, although she has had a couple of good days. The teacher thinks it is a phase that she’ll hopefully get through soon. I’m planning to check out the links since it is really upsetting to me. Thanks, TWG.


February 16th, 2011
2:07 pm

I had to leave my son crying at day care all the time when he was that age. I hated it. It was all for show though, for my benefit. He would run after me when I dropped him off, and scream and cry and paw and me. The teachers had to restrain him (after much hugging and crying at mommy) so I could get out the door and not be late for work. They assured me that as soon as I left, he would be fine all day. Then, of course, when I picked him up, he’d cry and hug my leg again. Needless to say, his pre-school teachers game him the “most dramatic” award at the end of the year!


February 16th, 2011
2:10 pm

From my long experience, much of it as a kindergarten teacher, I am NOT an advocate of the sneak out. I think it undermines trust, and makes kids MORE fearful. I would tell parents, “give her and hug and a kiss and turn around and keep walking.” Those that did it had about a week of crying, if any. Those who did not, who dallied around, lengthened the time a great deal. (How many mamas cried for longer, I would guess to be “many.”) I never lost a kindergartener. Very, very few of my children had had any preschool experience back then.

I had a grandpa that came and spent the day one time. His grandson had been tearful for quite some time, so “papa” came and went though a day with us. When he left he told me, “If I so much as hear that that boy cried today, with all the wonderful things you do and how kind you are to him, I’ll whup him myself.” I assured him that it wouldn’t be necessary; now that grandpa had no doubt in the school, the boy would be fine because he would sense it from grandpa’s reactions.”

I remember when my older daughter took swimming lessons. She had never been afraid of the water, but starting the first day they dropped them off the diving board. She was three. She was terrified, and begged to quit. I kept reassuring her,”I know it will get easier” and after the 4th day (It lasted 2 weeks) it did get better and she loved it and became an excellent swimmer. She needed to know and feel that I had confidence in her and in her teacher.

Don’t give your child mixed messages, Theresa. Love her, and then get out of the way, but don’t hide that you are going! She need to be treated with respect for her ability to get by without you for a while.

Uh, Tiger man...

February 16th, 2011
2:15 pm

…I don’t think Ally Sheedy was even alive when ‘The Graduate’ was made (1967) and you may not have been alive either – no wonder you did not know Katherine Ross from Ally Sheedy…

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

February 16th, 2011
2:20 pm

“I hate doing that because God forbid I die in a car accident and I didn’t say goodbye to my children or kiss them or tell them that I love them”

there really is NOTHING you won’t find to worry about, is there? ;-)

I worry about sneezing while I’m shaving and cutting my nose off, and then being in such pain that the razor drops from my hand and falls on my foot and cuts my toe off. But what I really worry about is the doctors determining the extremities can be re-attached but accidentally sewing my toe on my face and my nose on my foot and then every time I sneeze my shoe flies off.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

February 16th, 2011
2:23 pm

@Uh Tiger…..I can’t believe I made that mistake!!!! I don’t know why I thought her name was Ally Sheedy, especially since I watched “the Breakfast Club” about 100 times in high school.

Thanks for the catch!!!


February 16th, 2011
2:30 pm

I did,….ONCE. She NEVER let me forget it. She was about 18 months at the time, and we were at a friend’s house. The kids were all playing together, all happy, etc. My friend said – “let’s run to the store, hubby will watch the kids.” So we jumped in the car, ran to Kroger, and were back in 30 minutes. My child was a mess, and friend’s hubby said she cried the entire time we were gone. She wouldn’t let me out of her sight for a very long time…….

Now, it’s good bye, I love you. We always say I love you when hanging up the phone or walking out the door……


February 16th, 2011
2:32 pm

Oh my gosh — give them a hug, a kiss, a goodbye and leave — I’m not an advocate for “sneaking out” either. In the “sneaking out” scenario. This is a selfish move on your part to save your feelings. The child(ren) are probably still upset but you didn’t have to witness it. Yeah, that’s being an adult. C’mon, life isn’t fair and never will be – the sooner that lesson is learned, the better.


February 16th, 2011
2:42 pm

My oldest went through it, but the youngest did not. I think that was because she always had her sister there with her when they were dropped off, and then when she didn’t, she was old enough to be past that stage.

I worked in daycare (I know, those poor kids lol)and the kids were usually fine 2 minutes after the parents walked out the door. “Redirection” we called it then. The parents who would draw out the goodbyes made it worse on themselves and the kids. Hug, kiss, see you later, love you bye!

Bluebell Jones

February 16th, 2011
2:55 pm

True story: I once met a man whose daughter was brutally murdered. He told me that he hadn’t told her he loved her the last time he saw her. This thing simply crucified him. Things DO happen. Tell them you love them. Don’t sneak out. You had the kids, the least you can do is nurture them


February 16th, 2011
2:55 pm

My son started daycare when he was 6 months old and he would cry everyday for the first couple of weeks but the teacher assured me that he would stop crying probably before I made it out of the parking lot. The first day that he didn’t cry broke my heart more than when he cried! When we walked in and the teacher reached for him, he jumped in a way that used to only be for me. I actually had to sit in my car and compose myself because i thought he didn’t love me any more. :-D (Be gentle with me Tiger, LOL). He was in that same daycare until he started school but moved to different rooms once he reached certain milestones. Up until he was 3, he would cry the first couple of weeks he was in the new class but then it would get used to it and be fine.


February 16th, 2011
3:05 pm

When I was a teenager I used to babysit for my sisters in the summer and I had one niece who cried for hours if she saw my sister leave but if (niece) was playing with the other kids and didn’t see sister leave, she wouldn’t even wimper. The routine quickly became distraction with her. There were between 6-8 kids there everyday but she was the only crier out of the bunch.


February 16th, 2011
3:35 pm

I actually had to think about this. When my son was less that two ( we moved the summer he turned two) I was working on my graduate degree. I taught Kinder during the day and sometimes took a class or two at night. Hubby worked nights and stayed home with son during the day. Our neighbor’s daughter came over to watch him a few hours each time. She was 15 or 16. He was NEVER fussy with anyone else and had been going to church since he was just a few months old and stayed in the nursery. He did cry when I left him with her, so they would head out to the back yard and play with things and I would head out the front door. We had no other choice and no family within a thousand miles. I was not going to drop the classes.

I do remember that when he started preschool, I walked him down the hall and we chatted about all the fun things he would be doing. He was two then. We passed a Mom who was bawling and with her crying child in tow. She kept saying how much she would miss the little precious. We stopped in our tracks and the Mom said to me, ” You are so lucky that your son is accepting the whole going to preschool idea and is calm.” I thought: WHAT….who here is NOT accepting and who here is feeding off of their mother? LOL!!!


February 16th, 2011
3:36 pm

catlady… I love the Grandpa story!


February 16th, 2011
4:13 pm

For me it depends on the kid, the mood and the situation. My 2 year old goes through phases of separation anxiety, and of course I hate to leave him crying. My husband always takes him to preschool in the morning, because he doesn’t cling and cry for him the way he does for me. Once in awhile I have to do it, and I hate it -although he’s gotten a lot better and doesn’t always do it. With him in this situation, I always give him a big hug and kiss and tell him I love him, but I do have to walk out or it never ends. The minute I’m gone -he’s fine. When we have a sitter, IF he’s in one of these phases, I will have held him and kissed him and told him I loved him before the sitter arrives. When he’s preoccupied, we’ll leave. That’s not always the way it has to be though. Again, with sitters or even my husband, as soon as I’m out of sight -he’s okay. My oldest was never bad about this until he got old enough to know better -but he saw it was a great way to get attention at school. We finally got over that hurdle and it’s once again a non-issue with him.


February 16th, 2011
4:19 pm

No, I have never snuck out. That just seems wrong. Hug, kiss, have a great day, I love you! And, I would leave. I wonder why I never had any of these anxiety issues?

I did have one instance at daycare where I forbid one specific caregiver from caring for my son. He was an infant and there was just something “off” when I would pick him up and she would hand him to me. His behavior was off in a very wrong way and this happened two consecutive days. The next couple of days, I stopped by the center several times and watched the infant room on the monitors trying to discover what was happening. The directors noticed my frequent visits and asked me what was wrong…. I explained that I didn”t know what she was doing to him, but that something was definately not right with the situation. Thankfully, the directors were very accomodating. It wasn’t much longer before the woman’s employment was terminated.

I’ve seen many Mom’s pester their perfectly happy child until the child cried at their departure. Then Mom would leave satisfied that their child would miss them. —- I wanted to slap the Mother’s doing this!


February 16th, 2011
6:02 pm

My niece used to do this to manipulate my sister. True story… My sister and I were going out to dinner. We were leaving our 3 year old girls at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s (our parents) house. Not a scary place or scary stranger caregivers. After 30 minutes of wailing, crying, and peeling my niece off her mom, I literally dragged my sister out the door. After we were in the car, I realized I had forgotten my keys. So I trudge back in, fearing that the wailing was still in progress. But the house was peaceful. Then my niece realized that I was in the house and said, “Oh, they aren’t gone yet!” and the wailing started up in full force. I told her that I wasn’t falling for it and to knock it off. Then I marched out the door. My niece told my daughter and my mom that I was mean and scary, probably because I didn’t fall for her routine. I just laughed about that comment because I knew about that little manipulation ploy too.

Sometimes it isn’t anxiety as much as wanting to get their way.


February 16th, 2011
6:23 pm

Theresa, I have gathered that you are a church-going Christian woman. I have to share with you that, while I would never advocate handing your child a loaded gun, you have to know that God is watching out for your children and will protect them in all ways important. Does that mean that they will never stub a toe, or scrape a knee, or get in a bike wreck? Of course not. Even terrible accidents can happen! But if something does happen, God is still taking care of them.

Some of you (MJG has heard the whole story) know that my son was terribly hurt in a freak accident. In fact, he died and was resusitated several times. But even when he was dying, I knew that HE WAS GOING TO BE OKAY. IF HE LIVED, OR IF HE DIED, GOD WAS TAKING CARE OF HIM. Please don’t live as though your children are about to be snatched away. Take reasonable precautions; be a good mom, and give them wings. Love them, and take care of them, but know that you are not in charge, ultimately.

This is just my perspective.


February 16th, 2011
7:35 pm

Agree totally with catlady and others about hugs, kiss, and goodbye and also about not sneaking out; it creates mistrust. A friend with a 3 year old was going through this recently and asked how long before no more tears…based on my experience with my 2 boys (especially my younger one), I told her to give it 2-3 weeks and it will be over. And that’s exactly what happened :)


February 16th, 2011
7:46 pm

teresa i was raised on ‘never part without saying i love you in case you never see that person again’ maybe its a southern thing who knows. i finally realized…my kids KNOW i love them. everyone i love KNOWS i love them. if something happens i will not have to worry that they didnt know because i make sure they do. its ok to get mad and part or forget to give that goodbye kiss or whatever. if you love them they know it. stuff like that can drive you crazy!!!! im glad i finally realized it :)


February 16th, 2011
9:31 pm

I’m with jan. With a 3-year-old, are you absolutely sure you’re dealing with separation anxiety? I’ve found it’s pretty rare for 3’s to get truly upset when Mom leaves the house (anxiety about being left at the daycare (or the Y) is more common). That’s an age when they are master manipulators and really work hard at controlling the people around them through tantrums, affected clinginess, etc. They may insist on goodbye hugs over and over to delay you leaving, but it’s often more about controlling when you leave the house than about really being upset you’re going. If whoever is keeping them says they’re fine once you’re gone, then make a point to always say goodbye with only one hug quickly and leave — no giving in to the begging, whining, etc. It probably warms your heart to think she misses you that much, but odds are she’s just playing you. Does Michael react to her clinginess as much as you do? If not, that’s probably why she does it to him less.


February 17th, 2011
11:26 am

Theresa, it never ends . . . they cry when you leave them when they are 2, you cry when you leave them at college when they are 18. It evens out :-)


February 17th, 2011
12:40 pm

My sister is going through this now with my almost 2 y/o niece. Until recently she had been strictly stay at home, working from her home office. Occasionally she would have to take depositions and would leave her with my mom. My mom moved away to teach in St. Croix, so the situation has changed. She decided to take her to daycare 2-3 days a week and began her tour of day care facilities a couple of weeks ago. She let her sit in for a 1/2 day at a facility a little over a week ago and tried to explain she would be back shortly, but my niece was to fascinated to care….until nap time and she realized that my sister was gone. Screamed til she fell asleep and was screaming when my sister came back. For the past week or so, she will not let anyone pick her up and is constantly hugging and kissing my sister. My sister took her to the permanent day care she chose today. Niece was fine until she realized my sister was leaving. My sister hugged her, gave her a kiss, told her she would be back in a little while and walked out the door with my niece screaming at the top of her lungs. She did not hide or sneak out, she told her goodbye and left.

Enemas for Christ

February 19th, 2011
11:38 am

You sneak out on your kids and leave them alone? What is wrong with you?


February 21st, 2011
10:54 pm

At the age of three, the kid is playing with your emotions and manipulating you. Separation anxiety hits its peak at 18 months, according to experts. Be the parent, not a wimp.