Separation anxiety is something that every child experience at some stage. Some kids can become very agitated for a while and others could continue to face the feelings of anxiety during infancy, toddlerhood and even preschool.
Separation anxiety refers to excessive fear or anxiety about separation from attachment character, which is usually one of the parents.
You probably wonder, why does that happen?
So, the simplest answer to that is: it is developmental, and it usually has to do with the child’s temperament.
Very young babies need to learn the concept of object permanence which means that objects continue to exist even when they are out of a sight. Young babies still can’t comprehend that once their mom leaves, she doesn’t disappear forever, and she will be back. So, this is when separation anxiety starts to occur.
Another reason why young kids are experiencing a separation anxiety is that they are over-attached to one of their parents. To be more precise, when the child spends most of his time with one of the parents and is not having opportunities to spend some time on his own, he will continue to request for it and will protest any change – if the parent leaves.
I have discovered that separation anxiety is related to children sleep problems. Separation anxiety is often responsible for messed up nap schedules, frequent night wakings and it is one of the main factors involved in the 8-10-month-old sleep regression.
So, how you should deal with it?
Here are my 5 tips for you:
#1. Don’t Over-Reassure!
If you try leaving the room and your little one starts protesting, you probably feel guilty, consider changing your plans and come back to reassure him. The problem with that is that no amount of reassurance will please him. Reassurance could actually worsen the whole situation and not make it better. Just think, if you never let your kid alone and you keep running back to him every time he cries, you are giving him the wrong message: “just cry and I will be here!”. Don’t forget that babies learn and interpret things based on your response. So, stop encouraging the wrong behavior and start teaching the right one!
#2. Don’t Sneak Out!
You need to let your child know that you are leaving even if you hate doing that. Just don’t sneak out! I know it is tempting. I am a mother myself and I have been there too. However, by doing this, you could even increase the separation anxiety of your child. He will not know where you have gone, why you have gone and whether you are coming back. If the child is bigger he will even start looking for you.
Always tell your baby that you are leaving and remind him that you are coming back. You can start practicing that with 2 or 3 minutes by going to other room and coming back. Do whatever you say. Leave and come back if you have promised. Do not break your child’s trust. Let him fuss for few minutes once you are gone, come back, praise him and then try again.
#3. Play Peek – a – Boo Games.
I encourage you to play games which allow your little one to practice object permanence and learning that even when people or things are out of sight, they still exist. Engage your baby in activities focusing on disappearing and reappearing, such as peek-a-boo, a jack-in-the-box. You can simply hide the toy under the blanket and then take away the blanket, so your child can see it again. Such games will help your baby to learn that even if you leave you will still come back.
#4. Get Your Baby Engaged in His Own Activities.
Your child should have the opportunity to spend some time on his own. He doesn’t need to be held or carried every time. You can lay him on the playing mat, walk further away and let him discover things on his own. Just be patient.
#5. Introduce a “Lovie”.
If your baby was not introduced to a “lovie” yet, then it is the perfect time to do that. “Lovie” is a transitional object such as a small blanket or stuffed animal that your child forms an attachment to because it reminds him of you. Children using “ lovie” tend to be more independent at self-soothing than kids who haven’t adopted one. Simply present “lovie” to your baby when he needs soothing, so he will begin to make the positive association.
Before introducing a “lovie”, make sure it is safe to be used and your baby is at least 6 months old. Search for a “lovie” which is small and soft. Avoid items which could cause a choking hazard. Pay attention, that there are no small items which could be pulled off such as eyes, nose or any accessories.
If you wish to present a “lovie” to your baby and he is less than 6 months old, I strongly recommend you purchasing BittaKidda Sleepsack, which has a “lovie” attached to it. This particular Sleepsack gives opportunity even for 3-month-old to have a new best friend, which is 100% safe as it can’t reach your little one’s nose. You can find it in my online shop: https://www.kingofsleep.net/shop/
Don’t get stressed, if your little one goes through separation anxiety. It is actually a good sign confirming that your kid is developing a strong bond and attachment with you.
If you struggle and would like to have any assistance, I will be glad to help you. I am using gentle and gradual approaches to eliminate children sleep problems.