Curbing Separation Anxiety in Children

Babies and Toddlers, blog , , , ,

Many young children suffer from some separation anxiety.  There are steps you can do to alleviate some of this.  One mistake parents often make is “the sneak away” but instead of helping it actually increases separation anxiety, because now your toddler has no idea when you might just up and disappear on them so now they are even more clingy to you.  If you use daycare of some sort from an early age sometimes you child may not have as much anxiety because it is normal for you to leave and come back.  It can be trickier to work on this if you are with your child all the time, but it is very important for you child to practice being ok without you right there all the time.  I know some parents do not plan on ever being away from their young children, but without any practice, your child could become very anxious in the event something happens that requires them to be away from you.  So how do you practice this?

One very easy way, play peek a boo with your baby/toddler.  This helps establish object permanence (the ability to realize something exists without being seen, i.e. mom doesn't really vanish she’s just behind the blanket etc.).  Another way to practice at home is to leave the room by yourself. but the key is to tell your child you are going to leave and you will “be right back,” because mommies(daddies) always come back!” Maybe you just step into the bathroom, to begin with, and you can make it a little longer as your child adjusts to this idea.

Whenever you are going to leave say goodbye. Try to put on a happy face so your child doesn’t mirror your worried expression and begin to cry.  I know some parents feel this may be hiding their feelings from their child, but it is much more helpful for your child to know you are confident that they are going to be cared for, you will miss them, but they will be ok and you will come back.  This can take practice, but with most children, this is a short phase.

If you child really has a hard time and you do not have a daycare or babysitter to practice with, try a good friend who is willing to entertain your child and hold them, comfort them etc. while you are out of sight.  Sometimes it just takes a few good experiences to get over the hurdle.   Be sure to acknowledge the child’s feelings “You are so sad that mom is at the store.  I miss you when you are gone too!  When I’m sad I like to have a hug. Would you like a hug?”, after that feel free to engage the child in a desirable activity.

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