Separation anxiety is when children fear being parted from their parents or their carers. This can start at 9 months of age and peaks at 14 to 18 months. It usually goes away by early childhood. Separation anxiety is a normal part of development and there’s nothing to be concerned about. Although, it can be more heartbreaking for the parents than it is for the little ones! There are a few things that you can do to help your child if they are suffering from separation anxiety.
In a new environment
- If you’re leaving your child in a new environment such as a carer’s house or childcare, spend some time there with them before the day comes when you have to leave them. With Madeleine, I had 3 sessions of childcare on different days where I was in there with her and her educator. This helped her understand that the educator was mummy’s friend. They’ll be less distressed if they are left in a familiar place with familiar faces.
- Gradually increase the hours of how long you leave your child. The first session I had with Madeleine with her educator was only half an hour, then the second time we increased to 2 hours. We slowly built up to 8 hours over 3 weeks.
- Pack a toy or a comforter. Bring an item from home so that there’s something familiar whilst they are settling into their new environment.
- Gently encourage your child that separation is important and that you’ll be back. Ensuring positive experience will help them become more open to idea of you leaving them. Avoiding this will only make it worse!
- Tell your child that you’re leaving by giving them a kiss. Then tell them when you’ll be back and that you’ll miss them. Be brief; don’t drag it out! I know it’s hard to leave them, but the shorter you make it, it’ll be easier for the both of you.
- I find that sneaking out without saying goodbye, pains my heart and probably also pains her, so I avoid doing this. I think she cried at every drop off for about 2 months. Then one day, after she had settled in, she learnt that I will always come back. So now she doesn’t even bother looking at us anymore when we drop her off (This makes me sort of sad too!).
- Settle them into the new environment. Take off their coat, make them comfortable. Take out their toys, let them play with the other kids.
- Lastly, keep a relaxed and happy look on your face when you leave. It’s definitely hard, I remember my first day, I actually walked out crying but I hid it from her!
Is there anything you do to help with separation anxiety?