Separation Anxiety is when a baby or child doesn’t want to be separated from their parents, a particular parent, or even a key person in their life – like a sibling or a grandparent. Some times its when their person is out of sight, or if there are being baby sat, or at day care, or even just put down on the ground they become very distressed until they are picked up. For some babies their separation anxiety can be so intense that being baby worn on the BACK instead of the FRONT that’s too much separation for them (that would be my baby).
Separation Anxiety can affect babies and children in different ways, at different ages, and can be a short phase or a long term challenge. Sometimes it’s not until preschool or when they start primary school that children start to really become distressed at the idea of being separated from their parents. Your children may also swap who they are attached too. Sometimes crying for mummy and others crying for daddy, and the opposite parent cannot calm them. This can be very frustrating for the parent who’s having all the attention on them and also hurtful for the parent the child appears to be rejecting – and it’s important to acknowledge those feelings so they don’t build up as resentment.
For little babies, they may become distressed if they cannot see you, because they haven’t developed the understanding of *Object Permanence* that you still exist and this can be very frightening for them.
Older babies may also become distressed because they know you still exist, but they still don’t understand where you have gone, and without a strong concept of time, they still don’t understand when you are coming back!
For toddlers and children it may be they become afraid of the dark and cannot bare to be left alone at night – you might want to try a special teddy, toy, light, lamp for them in their room. I would try to avoid games that validate their fears, like “special monster spray” or that you can tell monsters to go away, because ultimately reassuring them that while their fear is their experience, there is nothing to be afraid of. This can be a hard balance to find. Though as an adult who is still afraid of the dark because of “things under the bed” how much my father playing hero and chasing around the scary things rather than reassuring me they don’t exist, possibly influenced that. Who knows? It’s just something I am wary of with my own children.
With babies, try to take your time with them; if they are having separation anxiety from you when you leave the room, it could just be a phase as many babies learn that you will come back by observing that you will return to them. Comfort your baby if they are distressed because you left the room – this isn’t spoiling baby, you are teaching your baby that you will come back when they need you.
Though some babies will not tolerate any separation from you what so every and if this is happening often (or all day) and you are finding it hard to get anything done around the house *Baby Wearing* can be a great way to keep baby close and reassure baby that you won’t leave them, while still being able to move around the house easily.
Try playing peek-a-boo in an out of a door way to try to make a game out of leaving the room may help with separation anxiety, or talking to your baby as you move around the house, so they can be reassured that you are still there can also help calm your baby.
Also Separation Anxiety can go both ways! “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone. It’s also okay if you do not want to be separated from your baby, toddler, or child, if you are feeling pressure from other people that you “need” to leave your baby with someone and you don’t want to, try not to feel pressured or that there is something wrong with you for not wanting to be away from your baby, that’s totally okay too. Though it can be hard when you don’t feel like you have a choice, like in circumstances were you must return to work. For that heartache I have no advice, only empathy.