When a baby becomes extremely sensitive to mom’s comings and goings, and starts wailing her heart out whenever mom's not present—separation anxiety is often the culprit. While separation anxiety is a normal part of development, the emotional rollercoaster ride it takes moms and children on isn't easy to endure. Here Circle of Moms members share 5 helpful tips for surviving it.
1. Do Provide Comfort
One important way of shortening the separation anxiety phase is to provide ample comfort to your little one. As mother-of-one Elissa M. explains: “Don’t be tempted to ignore it. Some people will say just to let him scream. He is learning that he is a person, independent from you, and this is SCARY! He needs lots of cuddles and reassurance. The more secure he feels, the quicker he stops being anxious when you are not there.” Mother-of-two Emily S. agrees: “Separation anxiety is real and it’s a very stressful phase for babies. Comforting them and letting them know you are not leaving them allows them to get through this phase and then move on and gain independence again.”
2. Keep Reassuring That You Don't Disappear
Babies experiencing separation anxiety phase are still learning about object permanence—-the reality that you (and other objects) actually exist when they’re out of sight. As a result, every time you leave the room, your child worries she's lost you forever. As Ontario mom Jackie C. suggests, try to help your child understand that you will return after disappearing: “Teach him that just because he isn’t touching you doesn’t mean he is in danger. Play peek-a-poo, leave the room but keep talking to him and looking in often so he can see you, reassure him you aren’t going to leave him.”
3. Encourage Independent Play
As Australian mom Renae K. recommends, gradually encouraging your child to play independently may also help separation anxiety pass. For example, try turning your attention to a book while sitting next to your baby; a few days later, move a few feet away during playtime; then across the room; then try standing up; and eventually leave the room for a minute or two. In this way, the child gradually becomes accustomed to having you leave and return.
4. Transition with Caretakers
Leaving a baby while he's experiencing separation anxiety phase can invite a heartwrenching sea of tears. It helps to allow your child to meet and grow comfortable with the caretaker while you’re present. As mother of one Arminda Q. recommended to another mom: “Ask your sister to stay more often with her so that when you return to your job she’ll be comfortable with her.” Also, don't leave immediately once the caretaker arrives; instead stay a few minutes while your child gets happily settled and distracted with her new playmate.
5. Do Say Goodbye
Tempted to sneak out the back door? Moms and experts both advise that a child will be more upset if she believes her mother has suddenly vanished. Mother of one Angela B. concurs: “My son goes to his nana’s house while I am at work. I have noticed if I drop him off and try to sneak away, or he simply doesn’t know I left because he was playing, he literally clenches onto my shirt and will not let go of me when I get home from work…so now when I leave him I make sure he knows I am leaving. I say goodbye and go.”