How to deal with separation anxiety

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Being separated from you for short periods will further enhance that sense of attachment as your child begins to understand that you will always leave them in safe hands and that you will always return to collect them again.  In turn, the confidence that comes from this knowledge will give your child the courage to explore his or her environment freely and to face the big wide world head-on, knowing that he or she will always have a secure base to come back to.   

Separation anxiety generally peaks at about nine months of age, but may crop up again at several other periods during the toddler and pre-school phases.  It can be shocking and heart-breaking for parents to see their children so distraught by the thought of being away from them.  Here are some ways in which to help your child with separation anxiety:

Prepare your child:

Tell your child what to expect by explaining where you are going, who will look after them and when you expect to be back.  Say things like “Mommy will drop you off with Granny before my meeting and then I’ll come pick you up again at lunch time”.  

Make it quick:

Be careful not to prolong the separation process with long goodbyes or to show your child that you are upset. Your little one is sure to pick up on your anxiety and might incorrectly interpret your resistance to leave her as a sign that she is being left in an unsafe environment.  Give your child a quick hug and a kiss and assure them that they’ll be well looked after before you get on your way again. Don’t ever leave without saying goodbye to your child first though.

Provide a comfort object:Small children may find great comfort in keeping a special object, such as a soft toy or clothing item that smells like you with them while they wait for your return.  You could also give your child a laminated photograph of the family and encourage them to look at the photo whenever they are missing you. 

Mysmartkid is South Africa's leading programme for Early Childhood Development (ECD). Click here to join the programme.

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