When does separation anxiety start becoming an issue? The idea of your child being attached to you all the time may seem “cute” at first, but what happens when this spirals out of control? I remember a time when I wasn’t able to go to the loo without being followed, particularly when my son was between age 2 and 3. Almost every child goes through the separation anxiety phase, as part of their development. Most children start to show some signs at around 9 months and it can continue up to the age of 3.
The key to combating separation anxiety, is helping your child feel as secure and safe as possible. This will also help to prevent this escalating to separation anxiety disorder, which is a more serious emotional problem.
What you can do to help your baby or toddler with separation anxiety:
Practice in advance: Start by leaving your child with a trusted care giver for shorter periods of time first, for example 30-45 minutes while you go grocery shopping.
Always say/wave goodbye: we tend to avoid this because we know that our little one will cry, however, this leads to your child believing that you can disappear at any given moment, making them even more clingy! Create your own good bye ritual and once you have said your goodbye, leave immediately.
Manage the changeover process: don’t rush out as soon as your nanny arrives. Allow them to get 20 – 30 minutes together to get acquainted and comfortable, then leave. Get them to start an activity or play a game just before you leave, as a distraction.
Keep the environment consistent: a new school, house or caregiver could cause your child great anxiety. Where possible, keep things consistent.
Helping your older child with separation anxiety:
Address your child’s feelings by speaking to them about any new changes or worries that could be causing the anxiety. Something as small as losing a pet could trigger a child’s anxiety, don’t ignore their feelings. Make time to reassure them and help them through the process.
Encourage your child to participate in other physical and social extramural activities, to help them keep their mind off the anxiety.
Acknowledge and reward your child for any progress that they make with regards to their anxiety, it will go a long way.
If your child’s anxieties and fears don’t improve after a few weeks, consider visiting a professional child psychiatrist or child psychologist.
Modern Zulu Mom