Bye, Bye Baby! Help Your Child Survive Separation Anxiety

by Kimberly Blaine

If you haven't had that tinge of separation anxiety yet, you'll have your turn! Whether it's you or your baby who's suffering -- we're all bound to feel it at some point...

todder in tearsIt's the moment every parent of a small child dreads: the good-bye. For parents of young children it can be a gut-wrenching, heart aching, guilt-ridden moment full of tears, protests, and quick getaways. Separation anxiety can ruin your workday, put a damper on your (rare!) dinner out, and keep you trapped to your house (and chained to your toddler). But parenting expert Kimberley Clayton Blaine says that doesn't have to be the case -- and there are some simple solutions that can make saying good-bye a little easier for both the kids and the parents involved.

"Babies can show signs of separation anxiety as early as six months, but young children can experience it at almost any age," says Blaine, licensed Family and Child Therapist, mother of two boys, and author of the new book The Go-To Mom's Parents Guide to Emotion Coaching Young Children. "One of the hardest scenarios for parents to deal with is dropping their clingy and crying toddler off at daycare. It can tug at your heartstrings and make you doubt yourself and your decisions. But the good news is that separation anxiety will pass -- and there are some simple solutions to help you get to that point."

Toddlers, she says, understand about people leaving before they learn about people returning and they can tell from your actions that you’re about to leave. So for most children (and their parents) anxiety begins to build even before you've stepped one foot out the door.

Separation anxiety can show up in many forms. Your child may cry when you leave the room or refuse to be put down if she knows you'll be leaving. Some children will even go so far as to follow their parents into every room all day long. It can be both frustrating and sad for parents when they feel as though they are causing their children sadness. But the good news is that there are some tricks to help you both feel better about times of separation.

Read on for five tips that Blaine says will help saying bye-bye a little bit easier:

Bring out the "blankie." Transitional objects, such as a favorite blanket or stuffed toy can be reassuring to small children. In fact, says Blaine, to your child, these items are a symbol of you. They represent comfort, safety, and joy. Encouraging your child to attach to a transitional object early in infancy will allow them to be better at self-soothing later on. When you have to separate from your child, be sure that those special objects are close at hand to provide comfort while you are away.

"Babies love satin," asserts Blaine. "Rubbing the satin takes them back to the safety and security of the womb. Offering a blanket, stuffed toy, or other soft object to your little one during your absence will give them something familiar that will help to comfort them. It will make the transition easier for the both of you."

Practice makes perfect. It may seem silly for you to practice being apart from your child, but Blaine says that it can really make a big difference in the long run. If you know you're going to be away for a longer than normal period, help your child work up to that separation by taking a series of short breaks, such as running next door for a minute or going out on a brief errand.

"Easing your child into separation is a great way to prepare them for being away from you," explains Blaine. "And you don't even have to leave the house to get started. Tell your baby or toddler that you'll be going to another room and you'll be back soon. This will help them to begin to make the connection that although you are gone now, you will come back."