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How To End Separation Anxiety In Toddlers

10 Strategies for Handling Separation Anxiety

1. You can minimize the child’s separation anxiety by maintaining a consistent routine in which the child’s anticipates the separation and the reconnection.

2. Always tell your child before separating in order to minimize the child’s fear that you may separate at any time. This way the child can rely on you being there until the anticipated separation. 

3. Attempt to minimize separations.

4. Maintain consistent caregivers in order to allow the child to build an attachment to those who care for the child.

5. Ensure the caregiver knows the needs and preferences of the child. For example, you can share with the caregiver a song that you and the child like to sing together so the caregiver can do this with the child.

6. Provide the child with tangible objects that remind them of you so they can hold it when they miss you. It often helps to leave the child a photo of both of you.

7. Emphasize that you will always return to be with the child. Reassure the child before each separation. 

8. Tell the child what you will do together when you reunite in order to give the child something to look forward to as well as a reminder that you will return shortly. 

9. Once you reunite, tell the child how happy you are to see them again. Discuss the separation and how you returned. 

10. Expect the child to show symptoms of anxiety through many forms such as a short temper and waking up through the night. Reassure the child that you are there for them.

     In order for a child to be diagnosed clinically with separation anxiety they must meet three of the eight following symptoms:

(1) recurrent and excessive distress upon separation, or anticipation of separation, from home or major attachment figures; (2) persistent and excessive worry about losing, or about possible harm coming to, major attachment figures; (3) persistent and excessive worry that some event – such as getting lost or being kidnapped – will lead to being separated from a major attachment figure; (4) persistent reluctance or refusal to go to school or other places due to a fear of separation; (5) persistent and excessive fearfulness or reluctance to be alone, or without major attachment figures at home or in other settings; (6) persistent reluctance or refusal to go to sleep without a major attachment figure present, or to sleep away from home; (7) recurrent nightmares about being separated from major attachment figures; and (8) repeated complaints of physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, nausea) when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated. (Mychailyszyn, 2012)

Although it is age-appropriate for a toddler to have some distress when separating from a primary caregiver, separation anxiety “involves age-inappropriate, excessive, disabling anxiety about being away from home or from those individuals to whom the child is attached” (Scarpa, 2012). Professionals discuss how “separation anxiety is typical in toddlerhood, and so this disorder may be difficult to distinguish from anxiety that is developmentally normal,” it can usually only be distinguished by intensity of anxiety and length of time the anxiety lasts (Scarpa, 2012).

References

Lieberman, Alicia F. (1995). The Emotional Life of the Toddler. Free Press, Simon & Schuster, New York, New York.

Mychailyszyn, M.P., & Treadwell, K. (2012).  Separation anxiety. Encyclopedia of Human Behavior, 396-402.

Scarpa, A., & Wilson, L. (2012) Childhood mental disorders. Encyclopedia of Human Behavior,467-475.

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17 Comments on “How To End Separation Anxiety In Toddlers

  1. this is such an important topic ! Especially the awareness part ! the majority of Parents don’t actually know that such thing exist! I had Separation anxiety when i was a kid, it was psychosomatic (stomachache…), I remember visiting the school nurse daily, who had no idea what was going on !
    Thanks for sharing this and spreading awareness!

    • It can definitely be hard to separate from your child, especially if it doesn’t happen very often. Thank you for sharing your tips, I will definitely keep them in mind next time my child is struggling to be apart.

  2. Really informative post. Separation Anxiety can be such a stressful situation, and these tips are very straightforward and easy to follow. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Great tips, thank you! I have hard time leaving my boy at nursery, we both cried a lot from the beginning 😅 It is slowly getting better, though.

  4. This is such an important topic to discuss. It’s so hard to leave my daughter, thankfully she has a GREAT caregiver. I also deal with some separation anxiety when I’m not with her. Its tough on everyone!

  5. Great post! My child suffers from anxiety and these tips will help tremendously

  6. These are great points! I have a friend whose child is very attached. I’m definitely passing these on.

    • Being very attached is very good and healthy! But it’s definitely helpful to have some tips when dealing with a separation ☺️

  7. These are great tips! I went through thisbwhen i returned to work and it was so hard!

  8. These are such helpful tips! It can be heartbreaking to see your little one struggling when you leave them.

  9. These are great tips. My toddler is going through separation anxiety right now and it’s so hard to see him scream when I walk out the door. Routine is key!

  10. This is very timely – I’m a stay at home mom, and the only time my toddler isn’t with me, my husband or the grandparents is when I go to a mom’s group. He always has a very hard time when I walk out the door and it’s hard on me too. Hopefully this helps me minimize it!

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