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Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a sign of a close attachment bond between baby and his/her parents.  Because of the strong bond, children fear losing the people he/she is dependent upon for love and care.  This is normally seen around 9 to 16 months old, among other times.

As your baby has a new-found ability to wander farther from his/her caregiver, new independence and the realization that the world is a bigger and scarier place causes your child to have separation anxiety.

Your child may become clingy and even cry when you leave the room.  The degree will differ from child to child. 

If we help our kids through this appropriate developmental stage with compassion and patience, we can help them become emotionally resilient and learn to better tolerate the separation while also teaching them a self-reliance that will lay a strong foundation for the future.

Be careful not to let your own anxieties fuel your child's separation difficulties.  If he senses your apprehension about leaving, he will:  1) think there is something to fear; and 2) think he can keep you from leaving.  Children cannot handle that kind of power on their small shoulders.

Healthy separations teach trust, faith, patience, courage, and self-confidence.

Tips for Coping with Separation Anxiety:

  1. Create traditions and rituals around leaving. Let your child choose how he will say goodbye.  For example, he/she may push you out the door, give a big hug or kiss, sing a song with you, read a book, (i.e., The Kissing Hand, Sing "My Mommy Comes Back")

  2. Make sure your child is familiar with the caregivers who will be with him while you are gone.  If not, take the time to help him become familiar and allow time for warming up to a new place.

  3. Do emotion coaching.  "It's sad when Mommy leaves." A little empathy goes a long way.  Tell him you look forward to when you come back and you can bake cookies together.

  4. Give lots of positive reinforcement about each step of courage.

  5. Try not to be late!  This teaches children that they can trust your word.  A short amount of time seems longer to kids.

  6. Be organized and allow enough time that your goodbye is not rushed.  Have a nice time together before you leave for an extended period of time.

  7. Help your child adapt into the situation.  (school or sitter, etc...)  Get them into an activity.  This will help him say goodbye to you.

  8. Use transitional objects to help them to "feel the connection" with you even when you are gone.

  9. Anticipate the good things that will happen while you are gone.

  10. Make sure his caregiver is there to help your child become engaged before you leave.

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