Separation anxiety is normal – but it can be a challenging and heartbreaking stage for children, parents and caregivers. One of my favourite authors, Elizabeth Pantley, has just launched her new book:
The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution:
Gentle Ways to Make Good-bye Easy (from 6 months to 6 years)
She is generously sharing a short excerpt from this new book. Here it goes:
From the time that babies become aware of the world around them they begin to form important relationships with the people in their lives. They quickly learn that certain people are vital to their happiness and their survival. Babies don’t have the ability to understand how the world works, so they don’t know what makes these people appear or disappear. When their special people are out of sight they have no way of knowing if their beloved ones are gone forever, and they express their concern: usually by crying and clinging. Here are a few tips to help your baby learn to adapt to separations without the anxiety.
1. Practice with quick, daily separations
Over the course of your usual days together take opportunities to expose your baby to a few brief, safe visual separations. This process is particularly useful for the little super-glue babies who need you to be within arms reach at all times. Begin by getting your baby started with playing with an interesting toy or another person. When your little one is happily engaged, walk slowly, and go briefly into another room. Whistle, sing, hum, or talk so she knows you’re still there, even though she can’t see you. Carry out these brief separations off and on throughout the day in a variety of different situations.
2. Avoid the in-arms transfer
It’s common to hand over a baby from one caregiver to another. The problem with this is that your little on is leaving the safety and warmth of your arms and physically whisked away to another less-familiar person. This physical parting is the ultimate separation-anxiety producer. To reduce the physical anxiety-producing sensations of an arms-to-arms transfer, make the change with your baby in a neutral place, such as playing on the floor or sitting in a swing, highchair or baby seat. Have the caregiver sit next to your baby and engage your child’s attention as you say a quick, happy good-bye. As soon as you are gone is the best time for the caregiver to pick up your child. The advantage is that your baby’s caregiver will be put in the position of rescuer and can help them with their relationship.
3. Allow your baby the separation that she initiates
If your little one toddles off to another room, don’t rush after her! Listen and peek to make sure that she’s safe, of course, but let her know it is fine for her to go off exploring on her own. A child-initiated separation is a brilliant time to allow your little one to know what a happy separation feels like. This practice can help her deal with longer separations that she won’t be in control of.
4. Don’t rush the parting
Give your baby ample time to process your leave-taking. A rushed period of chaos, as you get ready to leave and then head out the door can easily set your child up for an episode of anxiety. Instead, create and use a short but pleasant good-bye ritual – certain words & actions you always use when leaving. Be relaxed and pleasant. Allow ten or fifteen minutes for a proper, peaceful send-off.
5. Embrace separation anxiety as a positive sign
It’s perfectly okay – even wonderful! – for your child to be so attached to you and for her to desire your constant companionship. Congratulations: It’s evidence that the bond you’ve worked so hard to create is holding. So politely ignore those who tell you otherwise.
When you relax your expectations of independence you can actually help your baby be more relaxed and less anxious about those times of separation.
Vee is a high-need baby who needs lots of physical contact, especially when he sleeps. Somehow, he would snuggle to sleep ON me during the night. In the day, he is more manageable and I have been practising tips #1 and #3 regularly since he was a newborn. Every morning right after he is awake and in his best mood, I give him some independent playtime. Throughout the day, I also ‘disappear’ for short periods and he now trusts that Mummy would be back in a while.
Tip #2 is new to me and I would certainly try it. As a Stay-At-Home-Mum, there are few opportunities to let a non-family member take care of Vee. When the time comes, this tip would be very useful.
Read reviews of books written by Elizabeth Pantley:
Disclosure: This post is my entry to a contest hosted by Elizabeth Pantley. The contest is giving away a complete set of six “No-Cry” books to five winners.