3 Top Tips for Separation Anxiety
Around the first birthday, many kids develop separation anxiety. Knowing this is normal probably doesn't make it easier. Even though your toddler is growing more independent, he can become uncertain and anxious about being separated from you. Whatever pattern your child has developed when you separate from him will probably persist for a while around his first birthday. For example, if he becomes angry or cries when you drop him off at day care, you might have to contend with these challenges for another year or two. Sometimes, separation anxiety can be triggered by a change, such as a new caregiver or having a new sibling. In some cases, separation anxiety can last into elementary school.
Here's how our Mommy M.D.s -- doctors who are also mothers -- deal with their own babies' separation anxiety.
"My girls' father and I started leaving our kids at an early age with relatives and sitters, and they never had separation anxiety, thankfully," says Marra S. Francis, M.D., a mom of six children and an OB-GYN in Helotes, Texas. "Also, because I never made a big deal about leaving my girls, they were not reacting to my anxiety."
"I hated leaving my daughter with the nanny when I have to go to work," says Lisa Campanella-Coppo, M.D., a mom of one daughter and an emergency department physician at Summit Medical Group in Livingston, New Jersey. "'Mommy, do you want to go to work?' my daughter asked me one day. 'No, I'd much rather stay home with you,' I answered her quite honestly. I explained to her that going to work for me is like going to school for her. We'd both rather be home. She seemed to really understand that."
"Leaving my toddlers at day care the first couple of times was pretty stressful for me and for them," says Rallie McAllister, M.D., MPH, mom of three, co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby's First Year," nationally recognized health expert and family physician in Lexington, Kentucky. "My youngest son was a mama's boy and a homebody, and I had a feeling that things would go a lot better if I eased him gently into the day care routine. I started out by taking him to his new day care just two days a week, and I left him there for only a couple of hours each time at first. I gradually lengthened the time I left him there until he spent two full mornings each week away from me.
"My husband and I always tried to arrange our work schedules so that one of us could stay at home with the children a couple of days each week," McAllister continued. "That doesn't work for all parents, but we were really lucky to have jobs that allowed us to choose our own schedules to some degree. I also tried to make sure that I always had plenty of time to get ready on the mornings that my son would be going to day care. I learned from experience that rushing around and feeling stressed made my son anxious, and that always caused him to be a little clingy. On day care days, we'd get up and have a nice breakfast. As we got dressed, I'd tell him that he was going to have a fun day playing with all of his friends. While we were getting ready to leave and enjoying our time together, I'd reassure him that I'd be back to pick him up before lunchtime or right after lunchtime. I wanted him to have a good understanding of how long we'd be apart, because he didn't really understand the concept of 'a few hours.'
"We'd leave the house early so that I would have plenty of time to hang around the day care long enough for my son to get involved with a toy or a playmate," McAllister said. "I'd give him his goodbye hug and kiss on the way in, because I didn't want to make a big deal of saying goodbye once we were inside. As soon as we greeted the teacher and my son had relaxed his grip on me and wandered off to focus his attention elsewhere, I'd quietly slip away. I always felt a little guilty leaving this way, but it was a million times better than I felt leaving my son when he was crying and begging me not to go."
Jennifer Bright is a mom of four sons, founding CEO of woman- and veteran-owned custom publisher Bright Communications LLC, co-founder of the Mommy MD Guides team of 150+ mommy M.D.s, and co-author of "The Mommy MD Guide to the Toddler Years" and six other books in the Mommy MD Guides series. She lives in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. To find out more about Jennifer Bright and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.