Separation anxiety is one of those things that comes out of left field for many parents. One day your baby is oblivious to your comings and goings, and the next day – your little one is frantic, panicked, and not having any of this goodbye business! It typically makes its first known appearance when a baby is between 8 – 9 months, and can circle back for years to come if not an early focus. It’s important to note, that if your baby experiences separation anxiety, it is considered a perfectly normal part of development. But, rest assured, there are still a few simple things you can do to help soften the blow for each and every errand.
Give Your Baby a Proper Goodbye
Yes, really! When parents notice their little one becomes anxious upon them leaving, they typically opt for the ole’ sneak-away technique. You know the one… it involves quietly bolting towards the door the moment their tot isn’t looking! While that may be a nice strategy at first glance, it can create an ongoing larger issue: placing your baby on high-alert at all times! This means, whenever you want to simply use the restroom or prepare a meal, all bets are off, as you can no longer be trusted to stick around or return!
Instead, as painful as it may seem, say your “goodbye” directly to your child. We cannot expect a baby to reason as soundly as an adult, but let’s provide the same respect in this regard. Tell your baby when you are leaving and that you will return; but ah – it doesn’t stop there. Keep reading!
Don’t Linger – Get to Steppin’
Now that you have said your suggested “goodbye”, you may notice it isn’t going as well as you’d hoped. Tears and protests are to be expected since you are your baby’s special person. I hate to keep laying the bad news on thick, but sticking around with an attempt to comfort your child will only prolong the episode. If you plan to comfort, then plan to stay. Otherwise, swiftly move out the door and get to going already! Whoever is in charge while you are away should provide tactic measures to distract with a purpose! Ensure your trusty sidekick has your baby’s favorite toys, songs, and activities ready to go upon your departure.
Remain Calm, Pleasant, & Reassuring
Lastly, but certainly not in last place, is this: it is important to curb your own attitude. I bet you are thinking, “Hey lady, back off! You don’t even know me”. This is true, and since I don’t personally know you, here is a friendly and effective tip that everyone can implement. During the process of you temporarily leaving your baby, remember to remain calm, pleasant, and reassuring. If your baby is crying, try to hold your own tears until you make it out the door.
Why? Because you will want your little one to see that you are in control and there is indeed nothing to be worried about here. Babies are not as logical thinkers as adults, and since you already know this, let’s start to consider this point when troubleshooting and planning ahead. Young children rely heavily on environmental cues, actions, and emotions (ahem, your emotions). Show your child there is nothing wrong by conveying this message with your own feelings, tone, and mannerisms. Trust me, there is a bigger benefit for you displaying this calmness to aid with the next time(s) you will have to leave your baby.
As I mentioned, separation anxiety is nothing abnormal, and it is a rather nice sign that your child prefers to be near you! This is all par for the course as far as parenting goes! However, keep in mind that the sooner you begin to expose your little one to new faces, environments, and situations, the easier it will be for your child to transition to a daycare or school setting (or another event) once the opportunity arises! Remember, there are no hard rules here; use this advice if you find it beneficial to manage your little one’s separation anxiety. I practice what I preach as well – and all 3 tips mentioned are a slam dunk when used together.
Amy Douglas is a Certified Sleep Consultant at Baby Sleep Central. Recently named as one of the Best Sleep Consultants in the United States, Douglas works with parents of children from Birth – Age 6. Help your baby, toddler, or child sleep more independently, starting tonight.