The short answer is yes. Separation anxiety exists, not just with children and babies, but with animals and adults – it’s how you deal with it that’s key.
It’s a fact that separation anxiety and fear of strangers is common in young children between the ages of 6 months and three years, but it’s a normal part of growing up, and they will usually grow out of it.
According to the NHS website, separation anxiety is a sign that your child is growing up and realizing other people play a part in his or her world and this realization, as normal as it is to a grown-up, will cause distress to a child.
Recognize the Signs
Breastfeeding mothers will recognize the signs immediately. Your baby or young child will cry when you leave the room. Bottle-fed babies will do the same, but it is a simple fact that you can ask someone else to feed, often delaying separation anxiety.
It’s important to know that babies and toddlers often get clingy and cry if you or their carers leave them, even for a short time. This knowledge doesn’t make things easier, but it helps to stop any feeling of guilt and anxiety as a caregiver.
Dealing with Separation Anxiety
Help your child understand and deal with his or her feelings, even if they are young, you can teach them that if you leave them, you will come back, and they will be just fine.
Start small, leave babies with their grandparents or another carer for a short amount of time every day if possible. Catch up on some sleep and know that they are well looked after.
If your baby’s old enough, you can talk to him or her about what’s happening, where you’re going, what you’re doing, and when you’ll be back.
Increase the time spent away gradually. After all, time flies and before you know it, your child will be going to nursery. So it’s kinder to your well-being and to babies’ sense of security to create this trust now.
Tips to Make Life Easier
We have talked about a gradual introduction to separation; nothing needs to be rushed. The next step is to leave your child in unfamiliar settings for very short periods initially – a grandparent’s house, a friend you trust, or a caregiver you have chosen.
If your child is a toddler you can talk about where you are going and what you will do together when you get back – it can be something as simple as a walk to the shops or the park.
Give them something comforting, a toy or a weighted blanket – the chances are they will have already chosen this item for themselves, just make sure you have a spare. My heart goes out to every parent who has lost a special binky or blanket or soft toy.
Say goodbye and make this a positive experience and a happy one. Children pick up on your mood. As hard as it is, this is a positive life lesson, and, believe me, grandparents and caregivers are masters of distraction, and those tears will be dry in no time.
Before you know it, they will be asking to go to the nursery, caregiver, and then to school and you will realize it’s just another part of growing up.