Here One Minute, Gone The Next

Here One Minute, Gone The Next

 
The first official signs of separation anxiety happen around 6 to 8 months. This is because our little ones are beginning to develop object permanence.
 
 
Object permanence???
 
This is when our little ones actually know that objects/things/people do exist even if they are not right in front of them.
 
 
Prior to the development of object permanence, the saying “out of sight out of mind” really does apply. Often infants will drop things and not care too much about it or look for it. When our littles start to get object permanence, they will look for dropped items or get really frustrated because they cannot find it. 
 
Have you experienced this with your child?
 
A classic sign that your child has experienced object permanence is when they are sitting in their high chair everything you place in front of them is getting dropped onto the floor!
 
 
 
How does object permanence relate to separation anxiety?

During this stage of development, infants are aware that a person should be there. They will often yell or cry until they hear the adult again. This is when it becomes really important to teach our little ones that we leave but we come back as well.

You can teach a child that you will come back by playing “peek a boo” or hiding on your little one if they can move around to find you. I would also recommend talking to your child through the monitor or door if you are trying to improve your little one’s independent sleep. A simple “momma’s here will help” for some babies.

This is considered a major developmental milestone: however, it can be a very difficult for parents as little ones often need a great deal of support.

 

Separation Anxiety: When “I will be back” is not good enough

Does this sound familiar…

You are super excited to go out. Your little one starts to scream when you are getting ready. You begin to doubt yourself. You start to think it would be so much easier to just stay home.

Or what about this…

Your child is enrolled in a program or class that it just for them. Your child was pretty excited about it. The day comes when the program happens. Your little one is refusing to get ready, crying as you are going out the door or starts to cry when you get there.

 

It can be so hard as a parent when your child is struggling with separating from you. I understand this completely!! Our little man has gone through many times when he struggles with separating from us, especially me. I honestly have shed many tears over this.

The fact is, it is very normal for children to experience separation anxiety. If the anxiety seems to be constant then I would recommend involving a child psychologist to your team. You can also add some anxiety busting strategies that can be found in a previous article I wrote.

How To Help An Anxious Child

There are a few steps that will help your child with transitions and separation. The steps are as follows:

1. Allow your child to be upset.

We will often try to stop our child from being upset. If they are expressing their emotions we will ask them to stop crying. My belief is that the emotion is better out than in. Once your child is able to express their feelings it gives you an opportunity to figure out what is driving their behaviour.

2. Transitional Object

Giving your child a comfort object to keep with them. If your child already has a lovey this may work. I find that the best object is something of mine that my son really thinks I need. I used to give him my key ring and a business card. The key ring is something I always use. Whenever I came home or picked him up he would give it back to me.

Another really good item to use as a transitional object, especially for bedtime, is a piece of your clothing that has your scent on it. Our little man will go into my closet when I am not home at bedtime and help himself to a shirt of mine he wants to sleep with. He has even ended up with my pajama bottoms on more than one occasion.

3. Keeping your emotions in check

This can be easier said than done. When your little one is struggling with the separation it can be heart-wrenching. It is not the end of the world if your child sees you cry; however, it is important for your child to see you express your emotion while you move forward with the plan.

4. Practice

This means that you keep going out or you continue to bring your child to the program. Over time the separation anxiety will reduce. If there are still issues than I would look at the program to make sure it is a good fit for your child. I would do this after 8 weeks. All behaviour can take up to 8 weeks to see a complete change.

5. Be Present

When you return to pick your child up or when you see your child after you return from your outing, make sure you pay attention to your child. Spend lots of time connecting and playing with your child.

 

As with all things parenting there is no one solution that is right for all children; however, these tips should help get you on your way. If you have any questions about what is written here feel free to send a message to me or ask on the Facebook Group.