The term separation anxiety is totally a natural and important developmental adaptation for a baby. Almost every child experiences separation anxiety between the ages of 7 and 18 months. Yes, some babies react a bit more intense than others. Know that almost all babies have it to some extent.
This issue with children only defines that your baby has formed a healthy, loving attachment to you. It is a natural and admirable sign when expresses pleasure, comfort, and security as a form of bond with the parents. This means the kid is growing on an intellectual level also.
They are getting the fact that they can have an effect on their world when they make their needs known, and they don’t have to passively accept a situation that makes them uncomfortable. As parents whenever you see the symptoms of this anxiety is showing on your child, you can ease this tension by staying patient and constant, and by gently but firmly setting boundaries.
Table of contents
- What is separation anxiety?
- When does this separation anxiety occur in a child?
- Until when separation anxiety lasts in a baby?
- What are the signs?
- How to prepare a baby for separations?
- When nothing seems to work, what to do?
What is separation anxiety?
In a special way, this term usually means your baby knows that objects and people, like the mom and dad, exist even if they are not in the room or nearby. This tension can occur as a direct result of this necessary new form of advancement.
According to the sleep consultant Brooke, ‘Before object permanence kicks in, you can put your child in the crib, walk away, and if they cry it’s not necessarily because they miss you.’ She also says, ‘This is a big milestone because now babies start to sense that when Mommy walks away, she is sometimes gone for a long time, sometimes for five minutes.’
For babies, it’s not knowing how long you will be gone for, which affects the sense of security and makes them feel sensitive and unsafe. So when you put the baby to bed, leave for work in the morning or drop them off at daycare, the hysterical crying starts. Also remember, a different environment or new caregiver can make separation anxiety worse. Thought most of the time the child will be okay once they feel secure again. Don’t forget that both moms and dads can experience the side effects of separation anxiety, along with other caregivers or babysitters.
When does this separation anxiety occur in a child?
This issue can be blamed on intellectual development. According to Judy Cassidy, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, in College Park ‘During the first months of life, your baby has no idea that she is independent of her caregiver.’ That is the reason why young babies happily move from one lap to another.
When the infant is around 8 months, he or she starts to differentiate between people, and it helps the baby form a strong emotional attachment to his caregivers. Remember that the child is also learning the concept of object permanence. Meaning things and people like Mom and Dad do exist, even when they are not within eyesight.
On infants, separation anxiety usually starts between 8 and 14 months old. It can happen when you are dropping your kid off at daycare or when you are just simply going to the bathroom.
You will see that your baby is finally adapting the change, and then again it will come back when the child is around 15 months. This time it will seem a bit different than usual as the baby understands that parents are somewhere else when they leave, but he or she doesn’t know if they are leaving for one minute or it will take longer.
Until when separation anxiety lasts in a baby?
This phase tends to go away during the last half of your baby’s second year. How you are reacting to a few circumstances will affect the length of the separation anxiety period. Remember that, if your response when your kid is in a crying spell, and your first instinct is to run and comfort your baby, then he may learn that a crying fit will stop you from leaving in the future.
Yes, it is totally natural for you to want to ease your little one when he or she is upset. Just don’t forget that how you express yourselves regarding this can influence how he responds in a similar situation later on.
According to a few pieces of research, separation anxiety can last through the elementary school years of a child. In that case, you have to check-in with your child’s healthcare provider if you are concerned about your child’s anxiety.
What are the signs?
There is a chance that your baby might show a number of signs of this particular issue. Typically, it includes crying, whiny behavior, clinginess, and resistance to let their babysitter or parent out of sight. Sometimes parents even have to resort to their toddlers coming into the bathroom with them. Some kids may become introverted and stop talking when they feel this phase.
Did you know?
There are many things a newborn baby needs, and the pressure not to forget anything is huge. We strongly understand this issue, that is why we created a list of essential stuff you must not forget. You can use it as a checklist if you like.
How to prepare a baby for separations?
Studies have shown that it gets easier for your baby to cope with your absence if he is the one who initiates the process of separation. You have to let him crawl off to another safe room on his own, and then you can wait a couple of minutes before going after him. You might also tell your kid that you are leaving the room, where you are going, and how long you will stay there. In every way, your child will learn that everything will be alright when you are out of their sight for a minute or two and that you will always come back.
Make your baby comfortable
You can hire a new babysitter to visit and play with your baby a few times before leaving them alone for the first time. And when your first real outing is going to happen, ask the hired help to arrive about 30 minutes before you depart, so that she and the baby can already be hooked, before you step out the door. Do the same thing when you are dropping off your baby at a friend or relative’s house. Try to show up early enough to get your child familiarized and comfortable with the caregiver.
Don’t make it hard
Remember that your child is tuned in to how you feel, so you can show warmth and enthusiasm for the caregiver you have chosen. You should never cry or act upset if your baby starts crying, not at least while she can see you.
If you continue the repeated trips back into the house or daycare center to check on the kid, then you will only make it harder on you, your child, and the caregiver.
A lesson in object permanence
Your baby will learn that things continue to exist even when they are not being able to see them. This way they will feel better about letting you out of their sight. You can play games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek with your kid and it might help him understand this wonder.
Don’t sneak out when you need to leave
Yes, sneaking out may look easier than dealing with a tearful goodbye, but it will just cause the baby constant worry that you are going to disappear without goodbye at any given moment. The outcome is usually pretty bad. Studies have shown, because of this behavior even more clinginess, and diminished trust occurs in your bond with the baby.
Teach your baby about expectations
When you are going out of the house and leaving the baby home with Grandma, try to explain where you are going and tell them when you will be back soon. In the course of time, they will come to understand your explanations.
You can encourage the caregiver to make your baby involved with games when you are going out. Try to say a small goodbye and let your child be distracted by an interesting event.
There are some babies, who go through a stage of attaching themselves to one parent or the other. In this circumstance, the other parent, as well as grandparents, siblings, and friends may find this difficult to accept. You should try to reassure them that it is not permanent, and its a normal phase of development, and with a little time and gentle patience it will go away.
When nothing seems to work, what to do?
A second look
You should give another look at your sitter or daycare center. In many cases, it has shown that the person or center may not be a proper match for your baby if your child continues to be anxious and whiny when you leave.
Rethink about the goodbye strategy again
If you are someone who sneaks out when your baby isn’t paying attention, if you get nervous or tensed easily or if you slowly back down the walk waving and crying until your baby is out of sight, you need to try being more casual instead. You can just say, “see you later kiddo” followed by a small hug and a kiss can do wonders for an anxious child. These actions of yours show him that leaving is not a big deal and that you will be with him again soon.
Always keep in mind that separation anxiety is real and must be dealt with by responding to your baby or toddler with empathy and care. Eventually, it will pass in time. While it lasts, try to avoid long term bad habits developing, be firm and strict about not falling into the trap of feeding, rocking or co-sleeping, if these are the habits you do not wish to continue. You can think about trying some of the tips in this article of ours and speak to your healthcare provider for more advice. Never forget that in time this difficult phase will pass.