Help your child through separation anxiety by letting them know you are there for them.
Help your child through separation anxiety by letting them know you are there for them.

During those early months with your baby you are quietly laying the groundwork for a lifetime’s relationship with your child.

Responding to their cries and understanding their needs, even from as early as a few weeks old, can build a foundation of trust that will help your child become independent and thoughtful children.

It may seem like the opposite, but when you respond to your child from early on –– soothing them when they cry, feeding them when they are hungry, engaging them when they want to play –– you are letting know that you are there for them when they need you.

It actually sets them up to be more independent, knowing there is always somewhere for them to come back to if they need.

It’s a balancing act, especially as children get older and want your undivided attention or have difficulty when a parent or caregiver leaves.

While to the outside world a child who has difficulty parting ways with a parent may be called clingy and may seem to have emotional problems, in reality separation anxiety is a normal development in children.

It means they have created a bond with another person – which sets them up for a lifetime of building personal relationships.

Around eight months children develop object permanence – in that they realize that even though you’ve left the room you still exist.

Peak

Separation anxiety tends to peak when a child is about a year old and can manifest in many situations including leaving your child with a caregiver and can also affect children’s sleep, as night time separation anxiety can also hit. Separation anxiety usually starts to lessen when a child is around two-years-old.

Of course, one of the things that can be very difficult is when a parent has to leave their child with another caregiver –– whether it be a family member, at a day care or with a nanny.

If your child is showing signs of separation anxiety when you leave it can wrack parents with guilt.

But often times a child is perfectly happy and content once you’ve left. It’s almost as if they are testing you to see how you will react in the situation.

When leaving your child with a caregiver, here are some tips to help make the transition go a little more smoothly.

Time. Make sure to give your child time to get used to a new situation, whether it’s a new caregiver or day care. They will need time to build a bond with their new caregiver and feel secure in their new surroundings. This can take several weeks to happen, and even so, some children will still cry when you leave them on their off days.

Prepare. It’s a good idea to try and do a few trial runs with a new caregiver before diving in full time, if possible.

Goodbyes. Make them short and sweet and don’t let your child see you upset.

Make sure they are with a caregiver who can help to distract them once you are gone. Be clear that you are leaving and let them know that you will be back later to pick them up.

If intense separation anxiety lasts throughout preschool and beyond and interferes with daily activities, it’s a good idea to speak with your doctor about the situation.