Overcoming Separation Anxiety

For babies and young children separation anxiety is a real issue. Parents bring comfort and support so it’s only natural that without them children can experience stress. While it is nice to be wanted, sometimes you still need a break. Here are a few do’s and don’ts of overcoming separation anxiety.

Schedule Separation

Being tired and hungry are some of the most stressful times for a young child. Try to schedule moments of separation after naps and feedings to help accustom them to your absence. The recommendations are changing regarding allowing babies to “cry it out” or self-sooth. Self-soothing is an important skill, but it cannot be forced. Still, when there are times that you can’t immediately calm your child, use these as teaching moments by reaffirming their safety and your affection as soon as possible.

Familiarity is Key

Every now and then you need a night out with your significant other. This means finding a babysitter to watch your child. Try to use the same sitter when you can and have them come to your house. Your absence will be stressful for your child so you want them to be as comfortable as possible. The more familiar their surroundings the better. If at a childcare center, consider offering a familiar blanket or toy for them to hold before you leave.

Goodbye Ritual

When it is time to leave don’t sneak out to avoid a tantrum. While this may save you an uncomfortable situation, it can cause uncertainty for the child. Develop a ritual for when you say goodbye. It can be as simple as a goodbye kiss or wave. This repetition will reassure them that every time you say goodbye that it isn’t forever and you will come home.

Transition of Care Conversation

With children one and older, a transition of care conversation can be very helpful. This is basically just a conversation you have each day when you drop your child off – it must be out loud (even if it sounds silly) and it must happen in front of the child. It may go something like this:

Parent: Miss Stephanie, will you take good care of Joey while I’m at work?
Care Provider: Yes I will.

Parent: Will you give him all the food and hugs he needs today and help him to have fun with his friends?

Care Provider: Yes, I will be in charge of taking care of Joey until you come back to pick him up.

Again, this may feel very silly to you, but for a child with an especially high degree of separation anxiety, hearing these words each day over time will help them believe that the statements are true and that they can trust the adults to follow through.