Separation Anxiety: A normal and temporary life stage for a child.
Posted: Oct 18th, 2012
Separation anxiety, though may feel like an unending battle, is both a normal and often temporary stage of life for a child. Around seven or eight months, babies may begin to display distress when a beloved caregiver leaves their sight; known as separation anxiety, these signs may peak around 10-18 months. Related to a change in the baby's relationship to his parents, he is no longer content to just have his needs satisfied, he has become enormously attached to those individuals who have met those needs.
These signs of true attachment are as intense as those of a first love, and even though expressed with loud cries and distress, is really a sign to be celebrated. All the hard work of parenting a young infant has resulted in this strong feeling of love. At this stage of attachment, the baby experiences the parent's disappearance or absence as a loss. With a shaky new sense of object permanence (the understanding that things and people exist when they’re not present), he may fear that when his mother or father go away, they're never coming back. This clinginess may be upsetting to some parents unless they understand its origin in attachment and limited understanding. According to an article in babycenter.com, “If you think about separation anxiety in evolutionary terms, it makes sense: A defenseless baby would naturally get upset at being separated from the person who protects and cares for him.” Over time, with repeated parting and return, the baby comes to understand the process of being apart, and becomes calmer about this process. Parents need to be gentle in their understanding of the baby's strong feelings, and unhesitating in their clear leaving and return. In other words, kindly explain to your baby that you are leaving, but you will be back! By consistently returning, your child will begin to see the pattern that when you leave, you do return.
At about the same time, a related anxiety may occur in some infants. This is stranger anxiety, protesting when less familiar faces come too close. Not to be interpreted as sudden shyness that must be combated, by this age the baby has learned to distinguish his own people, and feels less comfortable with others. Again, gentle understanding and not forcing the issue at this point are the appropriate responses. With time, both separation and stranger anxiety lessen, occasionally reappearing during the toddler years.
How To Prepare Your Child For Separation
Begin The Process At Home: Incorporate moments of safely leaving your child in a room without you then return soon after. This helps her get used to not having you around every moment.
Build In Time: Do not drop your child off so quickly that you give him no time to adjust. Build in time to greet the teacher/daycare provider together, so he doesn’t feel left with a stranger.
When You’re Ready To Leave, Leave: Do not linger in the “goodbye.” Simply state a firm “goodbye” to your child and leave. Lingering will send mixed signals.
Come Back!: Returning to pick up your child with a happy face will help aid in a better drop off and pick up the next time. Again, part of the process of quelling separation anxiety is building in a happy return to look forward to.
Most importantly to know, separation anxiety is normal and often temporary. Creating good habits now will aid in a better transition in the future should your toddler begin to experience anxiety again.
Kids ‘R’ Kids believes that happy, loved, connected children are destined for success in every facet of their lives. Our most cherished principle, “Hug First, Then Teach,” defines every aspect of who we are at Kids ‘R’ Kids. When it comes to teaching, Kids ‘R’ Kids understands the importance of involving families with their child’s developmental milestones and accomplishments. We hope you will drop by for a tour at one of our 12 locations in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. You will find a list of our locations on www.dfwkidsrkids.com.