Your child is about 8-11 month old, a bit younger or older, and you are about to leave for work. Or, you have decided to have few hours off for a shopping. Or, you just want to take the book you left in the other room. But the very moment you leave the room, for whatever reason, your little one starts throwing a tantrum and hangs on your leg with a loud cry. What you see is baby separation anxiety – a perfectly normal stage of emotional development which almost all kids and parents experience.
What is baby separation anxiety?
At about 5 month of age, you will notice that your baby is a big fun of a peek-a-boo. This love for hide-and-seek game means that he begins to grasp the concept of object permanence, i.e. he understands that things exist even when they are out of his sight. So, now when you leave the room, your baby knows that you still exist but that you are gone. And since your baby does not have the feeling of time yet, he thinks you are gone forever.
Separation anxiety happens to almost all kids, but its strength may vary. Though you might not be in power to avoid it, our few tips on how to overcome separation anxiety in babies may be of some help.
1. Choose the right time
Baby separation anxiety usually peaks at around 8-11 months, so avoid starting daycare or childcare with an unfamiliar person when your child is at this age. Plan everything in advance and introduce new caregiver and daycare staff to your baby slowly. Give your baby time to start feeling comfortable with new people and environment and to trust them. Ask your new babysitter to make few visits and play with your kid before leaving them together alone for the first time. On the day when you plan your long outing, make sure your baby is not tired or hungry, and ask the babysitter to arrive half an hour early so she can engage with the baby before you leave.
2. Practice it at home
Sometimes babies initiate a short separation themselves, for example, when they crawl to another room. Wait a few minutes before going after her. Or, every time you leave the room where your baby is, take some time to explain her that your are leaving the room, but you will be back. This will help your child to learn that your actions are predictable and that you will always be back to her.
3. Have a good-bye strategy
Resist the temptation to sneak out of the back door. Even if it helps avoid baby’s cry, he will become more upset when he discovers that you have disappeared. Develop an exit strategy. Always say goodbye and tell that you will return soon. Say something simple, like “See you soon, baboon.” Give a hug and a kiss, and look positive, even if your baby starts crying. Most probably, your kid will stop it few minutes after your step out of the door.
4. Be consistent in what you do
Your exit ritual must be pleasant but firm. Stay calm and show confidence. Once you leave, leave, because returning will only make things worse: you will have to leave again anyway. If you have made a promise to return at a certain time, for example, after lunch or baby’s nap, keep your promise.
If nothing seems to work, think if the babysitter or the day-care provider is a mismatch for your baby. Try leaving your baby with someone for shorter periods and then gradually increase the duration. Re-evaluate your goodbye strategy: are you nervous and tense when you leave, do you sneak out too often?
5. Stay positive
Think about the positive side of the situation. When your little one is unwilling to part with you, it means she has developed a healthy attachment with you. Eventually, your child will understand that you always return, but will also have an opportunity to develop some independence. The baby separation anxiety usually eases at around 24 months and may be fully gone when your baby turns 3 years old. Meanwhile, give him plenty of cuddle time when you are at home.
What is your experience with handling your baby’s separation anxiety? Which strategy worked best? Share your experience with us.