We all have a hard time saying goodbye to our little ones, and it is extremely difficult coping if they get upset leaving you.
Coupled with screams, tantrums, and clinginess, saying goodbye can be one of the most distressing times for you and your child.
This may be because your child has separation anxiety.
Your child craves the security and comfort that you offer as a parent or caregiver.
My toddler daughter holds tight to my neck once she falls asleep on my shoulder. She will immediately wake up if you try to remove her hand or put her in bed.
How to deal with separation anxiety in children
Some of the causes of separation anxiety may include the following:
- Large gatherings: When we're in large crowds, I notice my little girl won't let go of my hand. I can almost feel the fear in her.
- Saying goodbye: Your toddler may cry, scream, kick, nip, bite and anything else they can manage to stop you leaving.
- Sleep time: This can be a particularly difficult time for children with separation anxiety and it can lead to frequent wakenings in the night and lots of tears from everyone!
Any mother knows it's heartbreaking when your child work themselves into a state over you leaving them, and it can take a huge emotional toll.
Handling separation anxiety
So here are some of my suggestions on how to handle separation anxiety in your toddler:
- Make your goodbyes brief. What works for me is preparing my toddler in advance that I will be going away or that I will be dropping her off at a baby center. And I explain that I will be coming back to pick her up. I don't linger around with a long goodbye or go back for a hug as this can make her more anxious.
- Don't sneak out: This is a strange one as it seems logical that you would sneak away before your little one notices, but this is actually more damaging.
- Develop a pattern for leaving: Consistency is so important for children so when the farewells are the same, your child knows what to expect and is assured that you will come back.
- A distraction activity: Have a babysitter prepare an activity to distract your toddler from crying. This could be reading, dancing to their favourite music, or playing with their favourite doll.
- Acknowledge they are anxious: Let your child know you understand they are anxious and that they miss you when you are away. I tell my daughter to ask for a hug from her Auntie when I'm gone.
- Pay attention to your child in large crowds: Don't push them too far, too quickly, especially if they seem afraid. Offer them lots of reassurance and carry them in your arms if you sense it's all too much for them.
- Create a pleasant bedtime: It could be a warm bath followed by bedtime stories or lullabies, and a goodnight hug.
Children often outgrow this phase of separation anxiety, and a few tantrums should not cause you to have a guilt-filled day.
But if you are concerned, talk to your doctor.