Parents have asked: Separation Anxiety - I heard parents have it too? When do babies develop separation anxiety? How can moms handle it when they send the kid to preschool?
Ahh, yes…separation anxiety. Although it’s normal and something every child (and parent) goes through, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.
According to Nanit.com, Separation anxiety refers to a developmental milestone that occurs in most babies between 6 to 7 months of age, when they gain sense of object permanence. This is why your child might start hysterically crying when you put them to bed, leave for work in the morning or drop them off at daycare.
I know what you’re thinking. What is object permanence? It’s a fancy term that basically means your baby knows that objects and people – like yourself – exist even if they’re not in the room or close by. Separation anxiety happens as a direct result of this important new development.
As a parent, you’re like hey, at least they miss me, but then you start to wonder if you’ll ever be able to leave them for the next 18 years. Rest assured, it IS a phase and one they will outgrow!
The good thing? Once they feel safe and secure, they will calm down and the crying will subside. It may take a few tries, but it will get better.
If you are anticipating taking your child to preschool, there are a few tips/tricks that you can do to make sure separation anxiety doesn’t get the best of your child.
Leave your child with a caregiver for brief periods and short distances at first. As your child gets used to separation, you can gradually leave for longer and travel further.
Babies are more susceptible to separation anxiety when they’re tired or hungry. It helps them if you get into a routine and stick with it. Kids thrive in predictability and this will help them to not feel abandoned during naps.
Rituals are reassuring and can be as simple as a special wave through the window or a goodbye kiss. Keep things quick, though, so you can:
Tell your child you are leaving and that you will return, then go—don’t stall or make it a bigger deal than it is. I give my daughter and son a hug and kiss, wave goodbye and head out the door. Neither kid has had an issue. I notice that if I linger or make a bigger deal out of it than what it is, they have more of a negative reaction.
For your child to develop the confidence that they can handle separation, it’s important you return at the time you promised. They need to know that they can rely and depend on you!
Have the sitter come to your house. When your child is away from home, encourage them to bring a familiar object. We let our daughter take a stuffed animal to my mother-in-laws for nap time and she gets to take her blanket to preschool.
If you hire a caregiver, try to keep them on the job long term to avoid inconsistency in your child’s life. We took our daughter to her preschool about two weeks before she was enrolled. The teachers suggested we walk out of the room and let her play with the other kids. She did awesome. In fact, she didn’t want to leave 🙁
Your child is less likely to be fearful if the shows you watch are not frightening. My daughter loves scary movies, but we still try to limit it to avoid any issues at bedtime or when she’s experiencing something new.
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Reassure your child that they will be just fine—setting consistent limits will help your child’s adjustment to separation. This is easier said than done, especially when it hits them at bedtime. Sometimes, you just have to walk away. As long as they are fed, changed and safe, it’s ok to let them cry for a little bit.
According to Nanit.com, there are several different stages to separation anxiety. Separation anxiety typically lasts two to three weeks and can pop up throughout infancy and toddlerhood, as well as later in childhood. For babies under two years, it’s most common during the following ages:
As parents, we may also feel a sense of separation anxiety. It won’t be as severe as babies feel, but we do experience it when we aren’t with our children for an extended period of time. It’s such a conflicting situation, right? We need breaks, BUT when our kids aren’t around, we are like, “well now what do I do” or “I miss them.”
I know I had a very hard time leaving both of my kids for the first few times when they were born. I had the thought in my head that no one could take care of them like my husband or I could. The things that helped me were:
Remember, with anything, it’s a phase. We, and our children, will outgrow these things eventually. Try and keep calm and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it!
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