How to Deal with Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is when a child becomes anxious or upset when separated from his parents. This anxiety can manifest itself in crying, clinging on to parents, or even throwing tantrums.
It’s difficult to witness, but separation anxiety is common and natural during early childhood. Still, there are some steps you can take to manage your child’s separation anxiety.
Ease into Separation
At first, try leaving your child with a caregiver for brief periods of time. This will help your child practice being apart from you and adjust to the separation.
Make sure you choose a trusted, experienced caregiver who will give your child positive early experiences with separation.
Keep Surroundings Familiar
If possible, it’s a good idea to have caregivers come to your home to watch your child. Although you won’t be present, your child will still feel a sense of security as a result of the familiar surroundings.
When your child must be away from home, send a familiar object with her, like a favorite toy or blanket. This, too, can provide a sense of comfort and familiarity.
Find a Consistent Caregiver
Switching between caregivers may increase your child’s separation anxiety. It’s best if you can use the same caregiver consistently so that your child will feel more comfortable.
Find a regular babysitter or search for a daycare that doesn’t have much turnover among childcare providers.
Make Goodbyes Short and Sweet
As difficult as it may be, try not to drag out the goodbyes to your little one. Dr. Alex Barzi, clinical director of the New York University Child Study Center’s Institute for Anxiety and Mood Disorders, explains, “Prolonging the departure gives your child the idea that there’s something to be afraid of.”
Try to say a simple, quick goodbye, and don’t turn around and go back if you hear your child crying. This is tough, but your child will likely cheer up a few minutes after you leave.
Don’t Sneak Away
Sometimes it’s easier to wait until your child is distracted, then dash out the door. But ultimately, this can have a negative impact on your child’s trust in you. Plus, your child may get upset that he wasn’t able to say goodbye.
Make a Goodbye Routine
Routines are comforting, so coming up with a quick, fun goodbye routine can help calm your child’s separation anxiety. For instance, you can sing a song, give a hug and two kisses, say a certain phrase, etc. Pick something that works for your child, and stick to it.
Separation anxiety is normal and nothing to worry about, but following the tips above can make goodbyes a little easier for both you and your child.