It can be physically difficult ( ever tried walking with a toddler wrapped around your legs?! ) as well as emotionally difficult, to leave your baby in the care of someone else, when they are clearly showing how much they don’t not want you to go! However, we all do have to do just that at some point, so if you are dreading leaving your little one with a baby sitter or at nursery, then here are some useful ideas on how to overcome separation anxiety.
It’s all perfectly normal! Many children experience this emotion, with the peak time being between 8- 18 months and if accompanied by tears and clinginess it can be really hard for the parents too! Eventually your toddler will start to realise, when you leave them, you do come back. Separation anxiety tends to decrease as the child grows older, but it can surface again from time to time, for example if your child starts at a new nursery or with a new child minder.
Top tip! Don’t compare your child with others! We and they are all unique and there are no rules or set time scales. Try and remain calm and patient with your child, they will eventually grow out of this period. Fast forward to teenage years, when you will do anything to get them to spend time with you!
Why does separation anxiety happen? Since they were born, you and your partner have been at the very centre of your baby’s world and as a result it can be scary for them to let go of you, as you represent all that is familiar to them. They depend on you for survival and have not yet understood there are other people who can also provide for their needs. You are their security blanket!
At this stage, toddlers do not understand the concept of time and so if mum or dad leaves the room even for a short time, it can feel far longer to your child. Try and convey the concept of time if possible, by breaking it down to timescales they can understand.
Top tip! Make sure you always say good-bye to your child rather than just slipping off, as by not doing so, you can increase their feeling of anxiety as they won’t know if you might simply disappear.
What can you do to help ease separation anxiety?
Always say good bye and never just slip away
Try and convey a sense of time, for example Mummy is going to take Jake to school and then come back and we can play.
If you know there is soon to be a time when you are leaving your toddler with someone else, try and prepare them by talking about the person who will be looking after them. For example Anne, who lives next door loves it when she hears you giggle or Grandma can’t wait to come and play with your new toys etc! ( Am sure you get the picture!)
Try not to let your own feelings show, if you are worried and upset, then your child who has best antennae for these things, will most definitely pick up on it!
If your child has a favourite stuffed toy or blanket then this can sometimes help as it acts as a kind of transitional object they can focus on and feel secure with, when you are not there.
Try and ensure your child has some time to settle down with the person looking after them, before you leave. Maybe they can be reading a book together.
Try and break down separations in to small periods at first, so they can get used to it slowly.
Have you any tips and ideas you can share?