I have noticed that my son, now 19 months old is suddenly  struck by separation anxiety.  This isn’t the first time, but we are here again.  Frankly it’s one of the hardest parts of toddlerhood.  Their fear is real, mommy and daddy may never come back.  It’s hard on mommy and daddy too, we don’t enjoy seeing our child afraid, worried, or just plain upset.  But we can’t stay by our child’s side for the rest of their lives.  They must learn that mommy and daddy come back, and that they will be safe and taken care of.  Whether they are at grandma’s house, day care, a friend’s house while mommy runs errands, and then eventually when they go to school, they will still be okay. 

How do you teach these things to your children, without the tears and fits?  Well, sadly, to start there might be tears.  However, there are ways to make this life lesson easier for your little one.  For starters, while at home practice.  Leave the room while your child is otherwise engrossed in play.  Talk to them to reassure them that you are still around, and safe.  Once your child is okay with this, try leaving the room without the constant chatter.  Make sure to tell your child you are leaving, but that you will return soon. 

Then it’s time for the big leagues.  Leaving your child somewhere they are comfortable is always recommended.  We always have a baby sitter come to our home the first few times so that our child feels safe and is in their territory.  Never, ever, ever leave without saying farewell to your child.  I know that it seems like the easy route, sneaking out the back while your child doesn’t notice.  Resist the urge, you don’t want them to begin to think that mommy can spontaneously disappear when they aren’t paying attention.  That will only reinforce their fears and make them cling to you even more when they sense you leaving. 

Be firm, be honest, and tell your child that you are leaving, you love them, and will be back soon.  Be consistent, and when you say you are going to leave, leave.  Don’t turn back, or let your child think that you are worried about them.  They may not understand why you are worried and could translate that into, “Well, mommy is worried about me, should I be worried about me too?” 

Sooner than you think this phase will pass and you will have an independent toddler who respects that mommy and daddy leave, and they will be secure knowing that you will return.  Then they will be free to have fun in their adventures.

-Stephanie Wright

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