Separation anxiety tends to peak at around 1-2 years of age. It is common and very natural.
Separation anxiety may take a while to get over. There are some things you can do to reduce separation anxiety faster during the day:
- Let your child know every-time you leave for a short time (out of sight), or a long time (in someone elses care). This makes your absence predictable. Never leave without saying goodbye.
- For longer absences develop a short goodbye routine that includes your child taking an action (such as waving goodbye, or closing a door). This ensures your child knows that you are leaving and gives them a small degree of control over the situation.
- Make sure an alternate caregiver is available to comfort your child when you need to leave (Gunnar et al 1992).
- Encourage your child to say and/or wave good-night just before you leave the room. Initially your child probably won’t want to, but overtime it can give them some more control, and the ability to communicate when they are ready for you to leave.
- Tell your child where you will be and what you will be doing. For younger children you can even provide a photo.
- Use more gradual settling approaches (Gradual Withdrawal or Gradual Approach, NOT Return and Kiss or controlled crying variations).
- Co-sleep safely.
Some of these recommendations are from the Dream Baby Guide: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/10/10/dream-baby-guide-review/. They also fit with research into the development of emotional regulation: https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2015/05/28/prp006-emotional-regulation-helicopter-parenting-and-sleep/ (Podcast episode), https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2014/08/29/emotion-management-sleep-2/ (Blog post), https://www.practicalresearchparenting.com/2016/01/20/independent-play/ podcast with Dr Ashley Soderlund.
Please add your experiences with this separation anxiety in the comments below. What helped? What didn’t? Please provide the age of your child when you tried it, and how long you tried it for. If it helped, please share the effects you saw. If it didn’t help, why do you think it didn’t work in your case?