Toddlers & separation anxiety

When was the last time you showered or went to the toilet in peace?
Has your toddler suddenly began to become distressed if you leave the room and are out of sight for only two minutes? You may be wondering why your happy toddler suddenly turns into a sobbing, screaming alter ego of their usual self when they are unable to see you.

Why do toddlers have separation anxiety ?

Erin Boyd-Soisson, Ph.D., associate professor of human development at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania says; “Between 8 months and 1 year old, children start to become more independent but are still reliant on having their primary caregivers close by. Although separation anxiety is more common between the ages of 8 month and 1 year old some children can go through it later, when they are between 18 months and 2½ years of age.
“This anxiety serves to keep the child close to the caregiver, who is their source of love and safety”. Dr Boyd – Soisson says.

How to help

There is nothing worse than having to peel off your toddler while they are sobbing uncontrollably. If you have decided to return to work or study then you need to help your toddler and yourself prepare ahead of time. Starting by leaving your child for short amounts of time while not far away. For example; for 1/2 an hour while you complete the grocery shopping or get a haircut. Then build up the time gradually. Try and develop a familiar routine when leaving your child and picking them up or returning home:

* Bring a favourite comfort toy
* Use the same carer if possible
* Make sure you say goodbye when you leave, don’t try and slip away thinking if they don’t
see you go it will be ok.
* Try and be on time for pickups or if returning home (having a clear timeframe such as
after nap time or afternoon tea will help your child begin to feel more secure that you
will return).
* Talk to your child about their day before you leave and when you return, about the
activities they will be doing or have done that day.

Although Separation anxiety decreases as a child ages, similar feelings can return for short periods of time, for other reasons. “When older toddlers or preschoolers are sick or stressed, separation anxiety can be triggered again,” Dr. Boyd-Soisson says. This may explain why when your child has had a break from being at daycare due to illness, holidays or if you haven’t left them for a while it feels like starting all over again from day 1 when it comes to separation anxiety. Try not to prolong goodbye and stick to familiar routine when departing.

When you return don’t forget to praise your child and tell them how proud you are plus talk about their day. Don’t forget separation anxiety in toddlers is usually temporary and part of your child’s development towards becoming more independent.

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