During childhood, you will notice your child will go through stages of having separation anxiety. This is when a child may suddenly became really sad when you leave them, and get quite anxious without your presence. There is no specific age as to when this occurs, however it is important to understand that it often happens numerous times throughout the first few years of life. Unfortunately I cant give you a timeframe on how long these stages last for, however there are strategies and ways to approach this developmental stage that I would recommend using and doing with your child.
Being an Early Childhood teacher, I often see children develop separation anxiety. This is normally seen when their parents are dropping them off - usually they are absolutely fine saying goodbye to Mum or Dad, and then for no apparent reason for a couple of weeks they find it really hard to say goodbye. Children who are attached to me may also find it hard when I leave the room or when I am not by their side.
It’s important that parents are a lot more adaptable and calm during these times, as your children are looking up to you for support and reassurance. If you notice that your child is getting quite anxious when you are leaving their side or leaving the room, you need to have open and clear communication with them. Tell them you are going to the kitchen or the bathroom, but reassure them that you will be right back, and stick to your word. Even children under the age of one have a strong understanding and good comprehension of whats going on and what is communicated to them, so don’t underestimate how powerful your words are!
If you raise your voice or show frustration about your child being more clingy or upset than usual, this is not going to help them feel safe and secure and it will most likely mean that the anxiety will last longer than if you were supportive and understanding.
Think to yourselves before you leave your child’s side - do I need to leave right now? Or can making the bed wait while I have time with my child to support and meet their needs?
You’ll notice that your child’s routine may fly out the window, or be a lot harder than usual. Try to be consistent with the same usual routine, however add in the reassurance and communication whenever you can. When your child is awake, spend as much time with them as you can, making positive memories. When it comes to bed time, do your usual wind down routine and when you put them into bed, tell them you will be near, and that you will see them in the morning. Sometimes you may need to pop your head back in their room for some reassurance, however try to do this in silence so they aren’t too disturbed.
If you child is always with you and by your side, then to prepare them for separation anxiety you may try and involve some family or friends to take care of your child. Even if it is for 30 minutes, having the opportunity to say goodbye and to then come back quickly will help your child to understand that when you leave you will always come back.
Communicate whenever you can
Give a lot of reassurance
Follow through on what you say
Practice saying goodbye and returning