Separation anxiety is a normal emotional stage of development that starts when babies begin to understand that things and people exist even when they're not present, something called "object permanence."
At certain stages, most babies or toddlers will show true anxiety and be upset at the prospect - or reality - of being separated from a parent.
It's frustrating for babies and parents. The good news is that separation anxiety will pass and you can take steps to make it more manageable. And in the meantime, enjoy the sweetness of knowing that to your child, you're number one.
How can I help my baby through it?
Several options are available to parents:
1. Minimise separations as much as possible and take your baby along if he/she seems to feel anxious:- With this option, you're basically waiting for your baby to outgrow this stage.
2. Set up childcare with people your baby is familiar with:- If you have to leave your baby - for example, to return to work - try leaving him/her with people he/she already knows, like his/her father, grandmother, or aunt. Your baby may still protest, but he/she might adjust more easily to your absence when surrounded by well-known faces.
3. Let your baby get to know a new caregiver first:- If you need to leave your child with someone he/she doesn't know, give him/her a chance to get to know his/her caregiver while you're still around.
4. Practice at home:- It'll be easier for your baby to cope with your absence if he/she's the one who initiates a separation. Let her/him crawl off to another room on her/him own (one where you're sure he/she'll be safe unsupervised briefly) and wait for a couple of minutes before going after her/him. You can also tell your baby you're leaving a room, where you're going, and that you'll be back. Either way, your child will learn that everything will be okay when you're gone for a minute or two and that you'll always come back.
5. Build in time for your baby to get comfortable:- Hire a new sitter to visit and play with your baby several times before leaving them alone for the first time. For your first real outing, ask the sitter to arrive about 30 minutes before you depart so that he/she and the baby can be well engaged before you step out the door.
6. Always say goodbye:- Kiss and hug your baby when you leave and tell her where you're going and when you'll be back, but don't prolong your goodbyes. And resist the urge to sneak out the back door. Your baby will only become more upset if she thinks you've disappeared into thin air.
7. Try not to cry or act upset if your baby starts crying:- - at least not while she can see you. You'll both get through this. The caregiver will probably tell you later that your baby's tears stopped before you were even out of the driveway.
8. Once you leave, leave:-Repeated trips back into the house or day-care centre to calm your baby will make it harder on you, your child, and the caregiver.
9. Try a trial at first:- Limit the first night or afternoon out to no more than an hour. As you and your baby become more familiar with the sitter or the childcare setting, you can extend your outings.
When babies develop a secure attachment bond, they are better able to:
1. Develop fulfilling intimate relationships
2. Maintain emotional balance
3. Feel confident and good about themselves
4. Enjoy being with others
5. Rebound from disappointment and loss
6. Share their feelings and seek support
Parenting Tips for creating a Secure Attachment Bond
1. Learn to understand your baby's unique cues:- a. Watch your baby's facial expressions and body movements for clues about sensory needs. For example, your baby may adjust body position or facial expression, or move his/her or his/her arms and legs in response to your voice, or to indicate she/he's cold or needs to be held and cuddled.
b. Become familiar with the kinds of sounds your baby makes and what these sounds mean. For example, the "I'm hungry" sound may be a short, low-pitched cry, while the "I'm tired" sound may be a choppy wail.
c. Note the kind of touch your baby enjoys and the amount of pressure that he or she experiences as pleasurable. With almost every touch your newborn is learning about life. The more tender your touch, the more your baby will find the world a comforting place.
2. Eating and sleeping provide important opportunities:- a. Hunger will also be the cause of many early cues from your baby. Schedules are helpful, but growth spurts and developmental changes may cause your baby's needs to change every few weeks so it is helpful to pay close attention to your baby's unique signs and signals.
b. Without proper rest, a baby cannot be calm and alert and ready to engage with you. Babies sleep a lot (often 16-18 hours a day in the first few months), and your baby's sleep signals will come more often than you might expect.
3. Talk, laugh, and play with your baby The importance of having fun, playing with, holding, and sharing happiness with your baby cannot be overstated. Smiles, laughter, touch, and interaction are as important to a baby's development as food or sleep. Your body language, tone of voice, and loving touch are all important ways of communicating with your baby.