Your little one hardly shies away from anyone, so you have no concerns the first time you want to leave them with a babysitter. The time comes to leave then it happens — the lip quivers, their face scrunches up then they scream:
“No, don’t go, Mama. Don’t leave me!”
Separation Anxiety is a normal part of child development that can start as young as six months old. Some psychologists believe giving in to separation anxiety only reinforces it, which makes it even harder to diminish. Brian Lotannas, Child Psychologist, suggestions the following things to ease a little one through this stage:
(1) Make Your Night Out “Routine”: One of the best ways you can ease separation anxiety is to work your night out into their routine. Pick a day of week and either draw a picture or put a sticker on that day on the calendar. Then say:
“Look, sweetie, this is the night Mama goes out with Daddy and (babysitter) comes over to play until Mama comes home. Won’t that be fun?”
(2) Always Leave At the Same Time: Your little one may not even know how to tell time yet, but somehow they always know when things are supposed to happen. Keeping everything consistent will help ease separation anxiety.
(3) Just Go: Lingering around when sniffling starts will only make things worse. As hard as it is, the best thing to do is to say good-bye, tell them you love them then leave.
(4) Never Sneak Out: Sneaking out when your child is distracted with something could make separation anxiety worse because the child didn’t see you leave. If their fear is that you are leaving them and you won’t come back, disappearing without saying goodbye will intensify the fear.
(5) Help Them See The Positive: Try to help them see the fun in the situation. Get them enthusiastic by being enthusiastic yourself.
(6) Leave A Part Of You Behind: Lotannas suggests leaving your child with something important to you as an assurance of your return. A great idea is a charm necklace with a picture of the two of you in it.
(7) Baby Steps: For a child with more severe separation anxiety, the best route may be to do things one baby step at a time. Invite the future babysitter over to play, starting with small spurts of time – maybe ½ an hour at first – then move up to a couple of hours. Once the child feels comfortable enough to be left alone with the person, get the potential sitter to start talking about playing together one evening when Mommy and Daddy go out. Then give it a try. Some kids simply need a lot more time to get used to a new situation or person than others. With kids like this, slow and steady may be the best way to help them cope and reduce their separation anxiety.
(8) Teach Him To Cope On His Own: There may be situations when you have to go out. All you can do is try some of the tactics above then just go. As harsh as it sounds (and as hard as it is to hear your little one cry), he’ll have to understand the fact there are times mommy or daddy have to go out. But always assure him you love them and you’ll be back before they know it.
Going through this stage with your baby can be difficult for everyone involved. There will be times in their life when your child will have to learn how to get along without you right by their side (such as school, dentist, when you go out, etc.). Until they can, all we can do is acknowledge their feelings and tell them how much we love them.