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Say Good-Bye to Separation Anxiety

Oct 22 2009 - 7:00am

Separation anxiety [1] is a hard time in a little one's life. Tough as it may be, mommy should try not to stress if her tot doesn't want her to leave his side — this completely normal stage of development [2] will indeed pass. In the meantime there are a few tricks for making it a little bit less tearful for everyone.

Always Say Good-Bye

It may be tempting to sneak out the back door while the tot is busy watching Elmo, but mommy's not doing anyone any favors with this method. Mama should say good-bye, give him a kiss, and tell him she'll be back soon. Try and keep it simple. If mom cries, so will the child. If she goes back for another kiss, so will he.

Use Family First

Instead of leaving an anxious little one with a sitter or someone he does not know very well, in the beginning start off by leaving him with someone he is familiar with such as a grandma. He probably still won't be happy to see mum go, but at least he'll be more comfortable with his caretaker (as will mommy) after the dust has settled.

Add Extra Snuggle Time

If mommy notices that her little one is having a hard time when she leaves, she should try spending a little extra one-on-one time with him when she's there. He may just be needing more TLC, particularly if mom's at work or not with him during the day. Besides, everyone wins with extra snuggle time!

Say Good Night

Babies often feel separation anxiety at night and some mamas have a hard time leaving their child to cry it out in the dark. If mum wants to go in and calm her frazzled tot, do so, but try and make it quick. Seeing mommy's smile and excitement will only make the tot want to be with her more.

Encourage Alone Time

It's a good idea to let a child play by herself. If the mother notices she is occupied by a toy, mommy should let her amuse herself as she watches from a distance. A little independence will do wonders for her separation anxiety.

Practice Makes Perfect

If a wee one's case of separation anxiety has mommy feeling a little on edge about leaving her, she should enlist the help of friends and family to slowly break her in. When there's company, the mom should ask her pal to watch her child for two or three minutes, while she steps out and comes back. Next time, try going longer. The trick is to get baby to realize that while mom goes away, she also comes back. Return the favor by doing the same with her tot, who is probably going through the same thing.

Read a Good Book

There are several books that moms can read to their child that may help her better understand and cope with separation anxiety. The Good-Bye Book [3] ($6) is one of our favorites.

Time It Right

It's not always easy to time good-byes perfectly, but leaving an already cranky child will not help the situation. Make sure the tot is not hungry or tired when mommy needs to leave. Plus, it gives the caregiver a fighting chance at calming her down once mom is gone.

Bring a Buddy

If a little one is experiencing separation anxiety at her daycare drop-off, allow her to bring a stuffed animal "buddy" with her to class. She may even forget about it and leave it in her book bag for the day, but a familiar face can often ease the transition for the youngster.

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