Surviving Separation Anxiety

Baby Bird is a pretty independent child. She’s happy to entertain herself while I take care of some business — except when I’m not in her line of sight. (BTW: Even if she can’t see me, I’m always watching her.)

As of late, her separation-anxiety meltdowns have been EPIC. I have to hold her while I’m making lunch. I have to hold her while taking phone calls. I have to hold her while I’m using the bathroom. Her world comes crashing if I put her down for a second.

“Separation anxiety is a normal part of child development,” according to PBS. “It can begin before the first birthday and pop up again (multiple times) until age four, and sometimes even into elementary school. It can even begin later in the school year. Some kids seem to be doing just fine with the transition only to experience separation anxiety a few weeks into the school year.”

This phase that my kid’s in might be a normal part of growing up, but we’ve been making lifestyle changes to help her through it (and keep us sane).

  • No more sneaky goodbyes. Mr. T and I had a bad habit dropping Baby Bird off with our parents, then sneaking out the door when Little One wasn’t looking. It wasn’t the right way to handle the situation. Once she realized we’d left, she probably worried about whether we were coming back — and that probably reinforced her separation anxiety. Instead of just disappearing, we’re trying to help her understand that our departure is no big deal. Saying goodbye was the first step. We give her kisses and hugs, if she’s willing, say goodbye in a loving but matter-of-fact manner, then head for the door. No second guessing, and no going back to her over and over.
  • Make sure she has something to remind her of home. We make sure she takes her favorite toy (of the moment), book, or lovey. The hope is that the object’s familiarity will help her calm down if she starts freaking out.
  • Stop feeling guilty. I feel guilty about leaving Baby Bird with my parents and my mother-in-law, even when they ask to spend time with her. That has to stop. She can feel my tension, and it probably makes her nervous about being in a space without me. It might even make her fearful about the people she’s left with.
  • Practice being absent. I get her interested in a toy, tell her I’m going to the kitchen, then go. In the beginning, she ran behind me and tried to climb up my leg. Now I can watch from the kitchen for about 5 minutes before she starts to get antsy. The plan is to stretch my time away for longer and longer intervals. Eventually, dropping her off with Grandma — and one day at daycare or preschool — will be easy.

Separation Anxiety in Kids: 4 Tips That Can Help
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