You are excited, you scheduled a date with your wife, you found a babysitter, and your 1-year-old baby is fresh and clean out of their bath. It’s time to go on your date. But your 1-year-old is not having it. They are experiencing separation anxiety and screaming mama, mama…..they don’t want mom to leave. In this video, we are talking about separation anxiety and what you can do to help calm your child.
Nearly every child goes through a period when they get clingy and get upset if their parent is leaving them. Separation anxiety in children usually shows up around 6-7 months and typically peaks after the first year. For most children, the anxiety reduces around 2 years old. If your child is a little older and still experiencing separation anxiety, these tips should help, but we will add a few for older children a little later in this video. Let’s get to it.
1) Realize this is normal – This is not something you did wrong as a parent. Nearly all children experience some level of separation anxiety. It’s just part of their growth. So don’t get mad at yourself or think your child is strange.
2) Remain calm – Your voice should be calm and your body relaxed. Do not let their heightened state of anxiety cause you anxiety. Remember while separation anxiety might not be something you want to deal with, it’s normal. Remain calm.
3) Be empathetic – Don’t say “You will be fine…don’t worry” Instead say “I know it’s hard when mommy and daddy leave but you are going to have fun and she is here to help you. It is hard for them, acknowledge that.
4) Let them get familiar – Whether it is a new babysitter, daycare, or some other scenario that is brand new, give them a little extra time to warm up. For example with the babysitter, have them come a little early so they can hang out for a little bit before you leave. This may reduce the separation anxiety once you do leave.
5) Say goodbye – Don’t sneak out the back. You disappearing and hoping they don’t notice you aren’t very nice. Don’t cry or make it dramatic, just say a nice simple goodbye and give them a quick kiss or hug. Don’t make a big deal out of it.
6) Make it Routine – You should practice leaving every once in a while. Having the child always with you at every moment will have them expect that. It’s ok to have some alone time, and it’s healthy for the child to develop that ability to be apart. The truth is that they may cry and make a fuss, but they are going to be ok.
But what happens when your child continues to have separation anxiety as they get older? Well first let’s clarify some things. If your 5-year-old is anxious about going to kindergarten and doesn’t want you to leave on the first day…not that big of a deal. It can be scary. If your 7 years old and doesn’t want to have a sleepover at someone else’s house because they are scared…pretty normal too.
For older kids, here are a few additional tips:
1) Positive re-enforcement – When they do something independent or show self-esteem, make sure to make a big deal about it. They will then want to repeat that behavior. Saying things like “wow, you just did that on your own” or “do you realize what you just did? you should be proud of yourself”
2) Let them do things on their own – Often kids who continue to experience separation anxiety are not as independent. Look at your self as the parent and see if there are things you are doing for them that you can back off of and let them do. Let them do things for themselves
3) Be empathetic yet confident – You don’t want to coddle them but instead, express understanding that it is difficult but that you have complete confidence that they are capable. Say “I know this is hard but I also know you are completely capable of doing it”.
We are talking about consistent separation anxiety for regular times of being apart. If your child is still experiencing extreme fear as they get older, they may have Separation Anxiety Disorder.
I would suggest you seek the help of a professional in your area as you are going to want solutions for your specific situation and individual therapy can help.
I think as parents, we often worry that because our child is experiencing something as a child, they will have this forever.
The good news is that typically they grow out of it. Separation anxiety doesn’t usually last very long. But if it does, be sure to seek assistance. I’d love to hear from you. Do you have any stories about separation anxiety? How did you feel when it was happening? Leave your feedback in the comments below.