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Expert advice

21st Jun 2023

This is why you should never say ‘I’m leaving without you’ to your child

Kat O'Connor

It’s a phrase so many parents use, but saying “I’m leaving without you” is actually causing more harm than good.

Parenting experts have stressed just how damaging it can be to say you’re leaving them alone.

Speaking about the impact this saying can have on your child, Big Little Feelings explained that this phrase can be very triggering and scary for children.

“You’re on a walk with your toddler. You need to get dinner on, the baby is screaming, and your toddler is walking backward while looking for worms, despite asking him to get in the stroller many times. ⁠How many times have we heard (or done) this at the playground? (Real talk, even WE have been guilty of this in a pushed-to-our-limits moment)”⁠

“Okay, I’m leaving!” → toddler still playing, ignoring parent →“Okay, I mean it, I’m leaving now” – starts walking away → toddler still plays, looking up from time to time → “Okay BYYYE!” → toddler shrill screams, NOO!!! And sobs, running towards parent.⁠”

As we all know leaving the park, or anywhere fun, can be extremely upsetting for toddlers. The experts at Big Little Feelings said it is a trigger-zone city for them.

“They don’t want to leave the park, they feel sad, and they want to STAY. “

“When we tell our kids “I’m LEAVING YOU BYE!” we’re accidentally telling them: Your feelings about wanting to stay don’t matter, I’m leaving now, get over it. And, there’s a chance I might leave you for real one day.⁠ This is pretty scary for their little brains.⁠”

They explained that the best thing to do empathise with their feelings rather than scaring them into leaving.

Using phrases like “It’s hard to leave when you’re having fun” followed by “It’s time to go home” will help.

Reminding them that they can also have fun at home will also ease things.⁠

They stressed that boundaries are key. It’s also important to accept the negative feelings. It’s completely normal for them to feel upset especially when they’re leaving somewhere fun.

“After the first 2 warnings, firmly, confidently hold the boundary by gently removing your toddler and helping them home. It sounds like this: “Leaving IS very hard. I’m going to help you now.”⁠ ⁠

⁠”But we’re keeping their emotional (and physical) security intact while showing them that it is time to go home now. No fear involved.”

We’ll definitely be trying this technique on the next outing to the park.


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