More Tips for Handling Separation Anxiety

For many parents, separation anxiety in their children feels like a failure. It can set on suddenly and viciously, leaving you confused and overwhelmed. You may think your child doesn’t trust you or can’t survive a moment without you. You might have “fixed” the problem by velcroing them to your side. Or, you may endure a daily tantrum as you prepare for work.

The good news is, separation anxiety is normal for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. The better news is, there are ways to deal with and manage separation anxiety. Here are a few proven methods for curbing meltdowns.

Train Your Child to Accept Absence

The first separation anxiety milestone usually hits around eight months old. So, introduce your children to the idea of your leaving early on. Have a babysitter, nanny or relative watch them for short spells. Make sure the surrogate caregiver is prepared to make the experience fun and happy.

Each time you leave, be careful not to make a big deal out of going. Say goodbye without anxious repetitions or tones. Increase the time you’re gone in small increments. Lastly, make coming home fun. When you come back, don’t overdramatize the time you’ve spent away. Bring a toy or play a game as soon as you’ve returned to remind your child you’ll always come home. 

Don’t Let Meltdowns Deter You

If your child begins crying as you leave, don’t stop. Continue your usual routine and say goodbye. Changing the plan or staying to comfort them will only reinforce the idea that tantrums can keep you from leaving. This one is hard, especially for younger babies. However, remember that perseverance now will make the transition more comfortable in the future.

Don’t Sneak Out

A conventional approach of parents is to leave while their child is distracted. However, this tactic breaks a child’s trust and may trigger worse tantrums in the future. Additionally, it may make small disappearances, like bathroom breaks, into impossible fights with your young child.

Ask your baby’s caregiver to be ready for you to leave. Have your child’s favorite toy, game, or treat prepared for when you depart. Remember to keep the goodbye quick and unemotional.

Create a Routine

Each time you leave home, say goodbye in the same way. Kiss or hug your child and tell them you’ll be back. The routine lends to normalcy and makes it easier for kids to understand that you’re coming back. Create a similar method when your children leave you. If you’re dropping them off at grandma’s or daycare, have a unique way you say goodbye. For older children, tell them when you will return. Try to use references they can understand like after nap time, etc.

Reward Good Behavior

Once your child is a toddler or preschooler, you can use rewards for good behavior. Before you go, calmly explain that you will be leaving and that if they are good for their caregiver, they will get a treat when you return. For young children choose the incentive. Allow older children to select from a limited list. You can offer them a favorite gift, a family game, or screen time.

Remember, although separation anxiety is normal for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers that doesn’t mean it’s insurmountable. With careful planning and the right approach, you can overcome separation anxiety with your child.

What have you tried to curb separation anxiety? We want to hear what has worked for you.

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