Separation Anxiety

Why does my child cry and become so upset when I leave the room?
·         Most children from age five or six months up to 3 years of age will protest separation from the primary care giver (usually the mother) by crying and/or demonstrating anger and frustration.
·         Even brief separations, like walking into the next room, will bring a protest from a young infant.
·         Two years olds often will try to retrieve mother by following her and get her attention by a variety of means, including temper tantrums.
·         These protest behaviors during separation demonstrate the beginning of the affectional tie with the mother and your infant’s ability to associate gratification of his need with the object mother.
Why is my baby’s protesting separation much worse at times?
The protesting is worse at times when your baby is:
·         Tired, hungry or sick.
·         In unfamiliar surroundings.
·         Disturbed by any alarming events occurring at the time.
·         In the presence of unfamiliar people or animals.
·         Trying to adjust to several changes occurring at the same time in her environment.
·         Not prepared for you’re leaving or you leave unexpectedly and/or leave by unfamiliar routes.
What are some things I can do to prepare and comfort my child when separation is necessary?
It depends upon the child’s age; however, try to avoid any of the above mentioned situations.  Remember, your baby is not “spoiled” or becoming overly dependent (dependency is more related to your doing things for your child as she gets older and has demonstrated she can do them herself.)
Some other things you can do are:
·         Do not scold, discipline or belittle your infant for protesting and getting upset when you leave.  He is developing an attachment to you as the most important object (person) in his environment.
·         Separations at night when putting your child to bed can be particularly difficult.   Follow a routine, be firm about keeping him in bed and leave the night light turned on.  Give him several favorite, safe, cuddly, soft toys, and always talk softly.
·         When your infant is about five or six months old, it is wise to select a mature, experienced babysitter who matches your child’s personality.  Then, make sure there are several opportunities for the babysitter to be with you and your child before leaving them alone.  Have your child awake when the babysitter arrives, and for a few nights have the babysitter help you go through the routine of putting your child in bed.  This will help your child not to expect mother to be present if he awaken during the night.
·         Talking and singing while you go about the house is reassuring to your baby even if he cannot actually see you all of the time.
·         Learning occurs through experience and practice.  When you leave, your child may be upset, but by following the same routine (like leaving, by the same door and always returning the same way), helps your child to adjust to that pattern.  As it is repeated your child gains confidence that you will return.
·         Peek-a-boo and hide-go-seek are important games to play at this age (8 to 15 months).    Have your children watch you hide toys behind a pillow and retrieve them- then let them find the toy they watched you hide.  These games help your child realize that things and people can be out of sight and then return.