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6 Ways To Help Your Baby Adjust to Separation Anxiety

How to Handle Separation Anxiety in Babies and Toddlers

At some point of time, an infant will separate from the mother or father for a while. The infant may scream, cry and/or show resistance to getting separated. This is an absolutely normal response by the infant as he/she is taken away from his/her caregiver. Children experience this separation anxiety at different ages, mostly between 8 months to 2 and a half years of age. Though separation anxiety is a part of the child's development, it is distressing for the parents to see their child upset. At times, parents feel more upset than the children. Children can sense parent's disturbance & may feel more anxious. Hence, knowing what is causing the child's anxiety, would help in reducing the baby's disturbance as well the parents'.

Separation anxiety can be short-lived or last for a very long time if not addressed appropriately. If parents give in to their child's anxiety, children learn that crying or screaming is a way of stopping the parent from leaving.

The child will learn to feel protected & comforted that the parents always return home when they leave. The child also learns to be independent & cope in a healthy manner.

Here are several ways that can help relieve your child's separation anxiety:

  • Keep the timing in mind
  • Avoid sending your child to daycare centres or leaving the child with a new person that child isn't completely familiar with. Plan going out when the child's needs are met, especially during the child's nap time or post meal time.

  • Step by step
  • When you have to introduce some new person or a new place that the child has to get used to in your absence, take it slow. Invite the person at home & interact with him/her in front of the child. Involve the child gradually in the play. Then you can go down to do your household shopping leaving the child alone with the person. If the child is starting with school or daycare centre, take the child for a visit & spend time by playing with him/her. Child will get familiar with the place & the people there when you would not be around.

  • Ritual
  • Develop a ritual that you always use when you say goodbye. For instance, "See ya later, Alligator", or a short song or some action. Remind your child you are going to come back. However, stay calm as your calmness would be reassuring for your child. If you appear guilty or sad or anxious, your child is likely to feel even more tense about parting from you, since you seem unsure about whether you're doing the right thing to leave her.

    Separation Anxiety is a way for your child to learn to be independent and that this is a normal process of growing up.

  • Don't Sneak Away
  • Make sure you say goodbye to your child, rather than sneak away. It is important that your child sees you leave and also sees you come back.

  • Keep your promise
  • If you have told your child that you would be back before lunch time, make sure you make it. Your child will feel certain in the future, that when you leave, you will eventually come back.

  • Souvenir
  • You can let your child take a toy, or any other comforting object along with him/her to school to feel safe in the new environment.

Always make sure you leave your child with a sitter or caretaker you trust. If it makes you feel better, have the sitter or caretaker call you when the child has calmed down. This will give you some idea of how long your child's separation anxiety last.

The caretaker can distract the child with an interesting toy or play a game or sing a song when you are about to leave the child alone. The caretaker should avoid talking about the child's parents. If the child asks about her mother, the caretaker can answer, and soon distract the child.

Remember, Separation Anxiety is a way for your child to learn to be independent and that this is a normal process of growing up.