Every baby will at some point go through separation anxiety, but it’s only because of the connection that you’ve built with your little one. Separation anxiety may begin as early as when your baby is 6 months old but for most, it begins when they are about 10 to 18 months of age.
This anxiety is a normal part of emotional growth but can be frustrating for both the parent and the baby. When you hand over your little one to the babysitter as you leave and you start to hear your little one start crying, it can be had to just walk away.
As hard as it is to see your baby experiencing separation anxiety, think of it as a sweet gesture showing you that your little one really loves you and wants to see you around.
Separation anxiety in most cases will go away when your little one is about 2 years old but before it passes naturally with time, here are 8 tips you could try to help you manage the unpleasant situation.
- Rely on Familiar Caretakers
When it’s time to go back to work to fend for your family, avoid leaving your baby with people they are unfamiliar with. Instead, ask people who already have a relationship with your child. This could be family members or close friends who your child already recognizes.
Your child may still cry as you leave but they are most likely to get used to you not being around faster when surrounded by familiar faces. Although babies may be too young to recognize faces, you can still try to find a reliable babysitter who can help start taking care of your child early. This way your little one has a constant routine at an early start.
If you are leaving the little one with someone they do not know, be sure to introduce them first and allow the baby some time to get comfortable with the new caregiver. It is helpful to leave instructions for your caretaker before you leave to avoid any confusion to your routine.
- Create a Goodbye Routine
Speaking of a routine, if you don’t have a routine when you leave you should start one as soon as possible. Implementing a routine as you leave your child is a great way to help your child learn and understand that you will be back for them.
Try to be creative in your goodbyes. Come up with a short and cute routine that will signal your departure every time you are about to say goodbye to your little one. This could be kissing their hands so they can keep you kisses safe while you are gone. It doesn’t have to be a big goodbye, just make sure you have some sort of a routine before you leave so your baby can get through the separation anxiety much easier.
- Always say Goodbye
As tempting as it may be to just sneak out while the baby is not looking in your direction, don’t leave without saying goodbye. Your little one’s separation anxiety may get worse once they begin to wonder where you disappeared.
Shower your little one with kisses and hugs before you leave for work and reassure them you will be back soon. However, resist the urge to prolong a goodbye. Just let him or she knows where you are going and when you are likely to be back. If you told your child a time or that you will be back before bedtime, try to keep your promise as best as you can so they can know for a surety that you did what you said.
- Practice being Separated
Your baby gets anxious when you are simply not in plain sight, not necessarily just when you leave them altogether. To ensure that the little one understands that you will always find your way back, practice being away from each other while at home. Let your child play and do their own activities without you being in the room.
Try to watch your baby at a distance while they play in their favorite baby swing or are keeping themselves busy outside. Never leave your child unattended, but try to separate yourself in your own home and watch from a small distance. While leaving the baby to go to the next room, talk to him or her and let her know where you are going and that you will be right back.
- Start Small
In the beginning, just before you go back to work, consider leaving your little one with a babysitter for a few minutes to one hour so that he or she can start getting adjusted to your absence. Over time, your anxious baby will know no matter how long you are gone, you will always come back.
- Leave Time to Communicate Before Leaving
Ask your babysitter or family member to arrive early so that your child can get comfortable before you leave. During this time, try to start talking to your child and conversing with your caretaker so that your little one can also have time to ask questions about where you are going and what you are doing.
Use this time to also allow your caretaker to start playing with your child as you make sure you are leaving the house with everything you need. While you finish getting ready you can also make sure you have enough time to explain the details of when you will be back.
- Avoid coming back to the house after you leave.
Once you are out the door, do not come back until it is time to come back home. Leaving then coming back to the house or daycare center will only worsen the situation for you, your little one and the caregiver.
It’s best to avoid confusion at all costs, if you happen to leave something behind you can ask you caretaker to bring it to the door so you don’t have to come back inside. Double check you have everything before you leave.
- Know that the Crying will Stop
It will be hard for you to believe that your little one will actually stop crying about your departures, but you can be sure it will stop as time goes on. In case your child is crying, try to avoid getting angry at your child and try positive reinforcement instead. In case your little one is inconsolable and doesn’t stop crying, you can tell your caregiver to call you in case it is an emergency. As long as you have left your little one in good hands, you can be sure your little one is doing just fine. Soon you will be wondering if you are the one with separation anxiety!