How to deal with your child’s anxiety about separation

By DavidPage

It can be difficult for you both to spend time apart from your child. Sometimes, though, it can cause anxiety and distress in your child to say goodbye. These are some of the things you should be aware of and how you can help your child manage these difficult feelings to feel safer and more secure.

What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety affects many children. It is most prevalent between 6 and 3 years of age. Young toddlers and babies can feel anxious if their primary caregiver is absent. However, they still learn that separations are temporary.

What are the signs that my child might have separation anxiety?

  • It is easy to spot. Do you cry at the drop-off of your daycare? This is just one indicator. Other signs include:
  • Being more attached to your family members when you leave them
  • Crying in new situations, primarily between 6 months and 3 years.
  • Refuse to go to bed without you or another caregiver
  • After being able to sleep through the night, you may start to cry at night.

It is normal for your toddler or baby to feel anxious and not have you there. You should treat them with kindness and compassion.

What can I do to support my child’s education?

You don’t have to feel guilty if you have to leave your child for an unspecified time. Instead, help your child learn to manage their emotions without you. This is an important step in helping them become more independent.

  • Discuss what you will do later together

Children are often anxious about the possibility of not seeing you again. This fear can be eased by discussing plans for your return: “After I finish work, I will come and pick you and we’ll go to the playground to play on the swings together.”

  • Keep short breaks and strive for longer ones

You might consider leaving your child with a friend or relative to help you run a quick errand. See how it goes. This will help your child to gradually adjust to being apart.

  • To ease separations, leave a blanket or soft toy with your child.

Is your child familiar with a favorite comfort object? It might be worth getting one if your child doesn’t have one. If a child is feeling upset, a special toy can help them self-soothe.

When your child is afraid, comfort them

Listen to your child when you are with them. You should respond with compassion and understanding. Don’t trivialize your child’s worries. Also, look out for nonverbal cues such as fussing and extra clinginess.

  • Introduce any new caregiver slowly

Before you introduce a babysitter, have a few short meetings with your children before you leave them alone. If you are required to leave your child alone for an extended period of time, this will make them feel more at home.

  • Be quick to say goodbye and be positive

It’s not just hard for your child to say goodbye, it’s also difficult for you. Keep your emotions positive and calm as you say goodbye. Tell your child that you will be seeing them soon, smile, and don’t delay. This will make it easier for your child to get used to dropping off and will also help them feel secure that you will be back.