Separation anxiety is one of those things that make us parents doubt our parenting abilities. When Lisa at the office tells you that her baby is happy with her sitter and doesn’t even look for her, you begin to doubt yourself. Maybe that mom you saw on a parenting group always shares photos of her toddler playing in her room for an hour, sometimes more. After reading this, you wonder why your child cries the second you leave her side.
When your child cries when you leave their side, this is separation anxiety. It seems like your baby realizes you’re not in the room, figures out you’re somewhere else, decides you’re supposed to be with them, and then cries, screams, and fusses until you return. How come Lisa and Beth never talk about this happening to them?
First, comparison is the thief of joy. Never compare yourself or your child to another parent and other children. Especially if you don’t even know them personally and just see them on social media. Remember that no one will post photos of their baby having a meltdown.
Second, separation anxiety is a sign of healthy attachment between you and your child. It is a normal part of childhood.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety usually begins at six to eight months old, when babies learn “object permanence,” or realize that things continue to exist even when they can’t see them. This is a cognitive milestone that is healthy and expected.
When your baby begins to learn this concept, they also learn that if you (beloved mama or papa) are not beside them, you’re somewhere else, AND you might not come back. This causes them to panic, get anxious, and of course, begin to cry. This is why your baby has a hard time when you leave the room. It’s also a sign of a secure attachment. If your child didn’t care about you, this wouldn’t happen.
While this is all good, we also know that leaving them at daycare or with another caregiver can be very difficult for everybody involved. Although we can’t prevent it from happening, we can do a few things differently until your child gets used to it and realizes that you’ll come back!
Tips to relieve separation anxiety
1. Lead by example
Your child might feel that because you are always watching them, they aren’t safe if you’re not around. So, decide on a room or space where your child can explore and play without anyone’s direct supervision. Start leaving them inside for a few minutes, but ensure you are nearby.
2. Accept it
Separation anxiety will happen whether you avoid it or not. You can’t stay with your child 24/7 until they get over their separation anxiety. It might take five years or more! When you leave them, tell them you understand how you feel then reassure them that you’ll be back. The tears may not stop, but it’s important to say a proper goodbye.
3. Leave them with someone they know
Children adjust a little better when they are left with someone they are familiar with, such as grandparents, neighbors, or a family friend they’ve spent time with before. If you need to be away for an extended period, let Grandma know that you’ll need her help for a few hours that day.
These tips work for kids who have normal separation anxiety. If you feel that your child has Separation Anxiety Disorder, which is more serious, consult a pediatrician.
Be present, consistent, calm, and consistent, and soon your little one will realize that you’ll come back when you leave. Then hopefully, everyone will be a little more comfortable when you step out of your house.
Contact us if you want a good night’s sleep for your little one and the whole family.