Infants and toddlers have little sense of time and few memories of past experiences. When you leave, your child may not know when — or if — you'll return. To ease your child's separation anxiety:
- Practice goodbyes. Leave your child with a trusted caregiver for short periods of time. Eventually your child will learn that he or she can count on you to return.
- Time your departure carefully. Your child may be more likely to have a fit when you leave if he or she is tired, hungry or restless. If you can, leave when your child is fed and rested.
- Give your child something to look forward to. Discuss with your child something fun that will happen while you're gone.
- Don't prolong your goodbye. If you're leaving your child at home or in another familiar environment, give your child a gentle goodbye — then go. Encourage your child's caregiver to distract your child with a favorite toy or engage your child in a new activity right away. If you're leaving your child in a new environment, you might play with your child for a few minutes to ease the transition. When you leave, remind your child that you'll be back. Be specific about when you'll return, such as "after lunch" or "after your nap."
- Leave a reminder. Offer a special blanket, stuffed animal or other comforting object for your child to hold while you're gone.
- Keep the tears in perspective. Your child's tears are an attempt to keep you from leaving. When you're gone, the tears aren't likely to last long — especially once your child is engaged in a new activity.
Remember, separation anxiety is a rite of passage for infants and toddlers. Be patient as your child learns that it's OK to spend time away from you.
Jun. 08, 2012
- Parenting corner Q&A: Separation anxiety. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.aap.org/publiced/BK0_SeparationAnxiety.htm. Accessed April 26, 2012.
- McInerny TK, et al. American Academy of Pediatrics Textbook of Pediatric Care. Elk Grove Village, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2009:207.
- McInerny TK, et al. American Academy of Pediatrics Textbook of Pediatric Care. Elk Grove Village, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2009:1742.
- The anxious child. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/the_anxious_child. Accessed April 26, 2012.
- Hay WW, et al. Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Pediatrics. 20th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=14. Accessed April 26, 2012.
- Kliegman RM, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1608/0.html. Accessed April 26, 2012.
- Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 11, 2012.
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