1. Separation anxiety is triggered by object permanence.
2. Introduce caregivers early to ease anxiety.
3. Say goodbye to establish a consistent pattern.
4. Encourage independent play to build confidence.
At some point during your baby’s development, they will experience separation anxiety. This is completely normal, and the good news is that for the vast majority of babies, this fear happens in phases and doesn’t last that long. Here are some tips that may help you and your baby!
Why does my baby have separation anxiety?
Once your baby realizes that objects and people still exist even if they can’t see them (this concept is called object permanence), they might get anxious if you go away. This happens because, once your little one understands the concept of object permanence, they think you decided to leave, and since they don’t know when you’ll be back, separation anxiety is triggered.
Tips for parents
This kind of anxiety is a normal emotional stage of development, however, we know it can be difficult for parents to cope with a baby who gets panicky and upset when they’re not around. So here are some ideas and tips you can try at home!
Introduce strangers early on
It might help if your baby knows everyone early on. You can try introducing the babysitters, relatives, and friends who’ll be caring for them when you’re gone. Between 6 and 8 months, your baby usually likes everyone, so getting them to know their future caretakers could make them more comfortable when separation anxiety strikes.
Although you may want to spare your baby’s (or your) feelings by leaving without saying goodbye, this might spike their anxiety. What your child needs is to learn a simple pattern: you say goodbye, you leave, and you return later. Explaining to your child what will happen every time you leave might help them. Even if your baby doesn’t understand your words yet, they will very soon!
Try to do the same routine each time when you leave your baby. Try to leave at the same time each day, so you can avoid unexpected things or setbacks and be back by the time you said you would. This can allow your child to trust you and build their independence. Also, foster their confidence and reassure them that you’ll be back, returning by the time you promised so they can build this trust.
Encourage independent play
Teaching your child to play by themself will allow them to grow out of the separation anxiety phase as they develop the confidence and patience to be alone for a while. It’s important to note that independent play is a learned skill that you can teach your baby. Just remember, it won’t be accomplished overnight.
First, you can try to turn your attention to a book while sitting next to your baby. A few days later, move a few feet away during playtime; then, across the room; then, try standing up; and, eventually, leave the room for a minute or two. With time, your baby will get used to you leaving and coming back.
Create quick goodbye rituals
Rituals and routines are important. They give your baby the structure and security to know what will happen next. Having a special “goodbye handshake” at night will help them learn that you may be leaving for a while, but you’ll be coming back in the morning. You can try special hand movements, give them lots of kisses, or provide a special blanket or toy as you leave. Remember to keep the goodbye short and sweet. If you delay, the transition time does too and the anxiety kicks in.
Hope these tips help! Let us know in the comment section what are some of the things you do to help your baby with their anxiety.