Parenting is a journey of emotional ups and downs. When they are very little and completely dependent upon us we wish they could do without us, if only for a moment! When they get older and embrace their independence, we miss the days when we were their entire world.
Separation anxiety is common for every baby and parent. It typically begins around 7-months of age and can last for years, but it peaks between 9 and 18-months.
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety in babies is an indicator that they are developing a cognitive skill called “object permanence.” Whereas before this point, once something left baby’s sight, she basically thought it no longer existed; now she knows! And she wants it back, including you! You see, at about the same time object permanence develops, your baby also begins to understand that she is separate from you – that you are two distinct individuals. Though baby wouldn’t put it in such terms, she understands that even when she can’t see you, you are somewhere and she wants that “somewhere” to be with her!
Baby separation anxiety is a normal part of development. A very small percentage of children develop separation anxiety disorder, which continues throughout childhood and is characterized by extreme distress. Consult with your GP or Paediatrician if you’re concerned. Separation anxiety in children requires extra care, but it can be dealt with and improved.
Separation anxiety isn’t only for baby – mums feel it too, especially the first few times you have to say goodbye. Follow these tips for making it easier on both of you:
3 Tips for Dealing with Separation Anxiety
- Let your child get to know a new caregiver before you go. Whenever I introduce a new babysitter at home, I have her visit a couple of times before I leave - once with me around and interacting with her and the children. The second time with I still stay home, but out of the way, so the children keep busy with the babysitter. If they are starting at a new daycare center, visit once or twice, meet their teachers, and discover together the fun things they’ll do while they are there and then talk about it often before they start .
- Make Goodbyes short and sweet. Long, drawn-out goodbyes will only make a necessary separation harder for both of you, so act matter-of-fact, give her a kiss and head out the door. Do not feel guilty about this. We all do at some point, but it’s important to remember that our children do fine and even thrive, when we are not present.
- Make Hellos long and loud! Remember, Separation anxiety occurs because your child understands you are somewhere, but they don’t know where or when you’re coming back. Making a big deal about reuniting will help them bridge the gap and gain confidence that you’ll always return. Plus, welcome back hugs are better than any other!
Have you experienced separation anxiety with your child? How do you deal with it? What’s your best advice for other mums?
You can learn more about separation anxiety from Early Childhood Australia at http://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/feelings_and_behaviours/everyday_feelings/separation_anxiety.html