At some point during your baby’s development he will experience separation anxiety. This is completely normal, and the good news is that for the vast majority of babies, separation anxiety 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?
Before your baby realizes that objects and people still exist even if he can’t see them (this concept is called object permanence), your child might get anxious if you go away. Babies don’t realize that if the person that protects and cares for them goes away they can exist somewhere else. Since they don’t know when, or if, their caregiver will return, anxiety kicks in!
Separation 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 him when you’re gone. Between 6 and 8 months, your baby usually likes everyone, so getting the caretakers “in” could make him 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 his separation anxiety. What your child really 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 him. Even if your baby doesn’t understand your words yet, he will very soon!
Play games like Peek-a-boo!
Playing games like Peek-a-boo will help your baby understand object permanence –realizing that objects still exist even if he can’t see them. These games can teach your child that even if you’re gone for a while, you will always come back! Try playing “Where is mommy?” or you can even hide and let your baby find you.
Encourage independent play
Teaching your child to play by himself will allow him to grow out of the separation anxiety phase as he develops 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. 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 him 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 him lots of kisses, or provide a special blanket or toy as you leave. Remember to keep the good-bye 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 his anxiety.
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