Separation Anxiety in Young Children.

You are your child’s source of love and safety and while there is work that you have to attend to, or errands to run, your little one doesn’t have the sense yet, to understand these things. Your baby is used to seeing you around in the house and when you are absent, it is normal that they get upset.

Separation anxiety can develop as early as 5 months but most commonly, it prevails between the ages of 8 and 18 months. You may find your child crying, clinging, or screaming, when it’s time for you to step out and away from them. This upsets parents a lot, although you aren’t in the wrong. By learning more about it, you can handle the situation better and train your child accordingly to handle your being gone for a while.

How Severe Is Separation Anxiety

As your child grows up, separation anxiety will decrease, but its intensity in their toddler years can have you worried. Understand that it’s a natural part of the development process and every child exhibits signs of separation anxiety differently. It may be very apparent at some times, while your child may be completely okay at others. As children start going to playgroup, they may start feeling better about being separated with the parent, but it can return in different forms especially in times of stress or sickness. Every child is unique and thus the intensity of separation anxiety in every child is different as well. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to months to help calm your child and make them used to it.

Why Does It Happen

Your child isn’t used to seeing you gone so it’s natural for them to exhibit feelings of anxiety. Every child is different and so are their reasons for separation anxiety but generally, children think that they absolutely require your presence to thrive. Toddlers also don’t have any concept of time. So whether you are leaving them in a room for a few minutes or at daycare for a few hours, it will feel the same to them. For some toddlers, it can also be to exert control. They think that their mom shouldn’t be leaving them or separating them from herself, which causes them to throw a tantrum in an effort to make her stay. You don’t have to fall for it but you do need to learn how to make it easier for both yourself and your child.

How to Deal With It

While it hurts to leave your child behind, especially when they are crying, it is also a healthy sign of attachment. It speaks for the bond that you have with them and the toddler’s response to your separation is natural. Here are some ways you can make separation anxiety easier:

Don’t Forget To Say Goodbye

A common mistake most parents make when they have to part with their child for a while is that they disappear. You think that your toddler will not notice you gone, but they do and when that happens, it is the worst. It will only develop fear in your little one of your disappearance so if you want to make them used to your being gone, make sure to develop a short and sweet goodbye ritual which will serve the purpose of informing them that you’re going now and will be back shortly.

Don’t Give Surprises

Toddlers are already going through a lot of change as they are growing up and as a parent; you shouldn’t be making it hard for them. Whatever routine of goodbyes you have developed for them or the timings that you leave to them alone for; remain consistent in that. Avoid giving them any kind of separation surprises.

Practice Separation

Before its time to put your child into daycare or preschool, practice separation so that they eventually get used to it. It could be as simple as leaving them at grandma’s for a while or setting a play date at a friend’s house. When your child is engaged, separation won’t come as a shock to them and gradually, they will get used to your routine as well.

Build Your Trust with Them

Instead of focusing too much on the fact that your child will cry after you and letting your feelings overcome your responsibility, know that you have to train them to be on their own without you. You have to make your toddler confident and build trust with them that they can handle you gone. If you leave them, don’t return in between because you miss them. It will not only extend the separation anxiety and any progress that you made, you will have to repeat it.

Should You Worry About It

Separation anxiety is natural and every child goes through it. However, as a parent you need to be conscious of your child’s behavior and see if the signs are amplified. If there are family problems or conflict or divorce involved, it is possible that separation anxiety takes other forms as well, which make it hard for you to handle your child. In case of excessive symptoms and if you feel your child is not exhibiting normal anxiety behavior, you might want to consult your pediatrician. Also, in case when separation anxiety persists well beyond school years and you feel that they are not adapting to your absence well, seek professional consultation.

Children are sensitive and want your full attention. So make sure when you’re with them you are not neglecting them. Whether your child is 8 months old or 18, they have started to develop understanding and are learning from the signs around them. Talk to them and provide them affection so that they don’t feel entirely sad when you leave them. Your child should have the trust that if mommy is leaving, she will be back soon enough and there is no reason to cry or throw a tantrum. It may take considerable effort and baby steps will lead the way, but it will make separation easier to handle for both of you.

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options.


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