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Tackling Natural Separation Anxiety In Toddlers

Though there is something called separation anxiety disorder in children, not every anxiety, clinginess, tantrums or crying when the loved person is out of sight is abnormal behaviour. In fact, it is natural for a toddler to feel anxious when the caretaker is out of sight and respond with an attention seeking behaviour. Though, it is difficult phase, be relieved that the child is going to come out of it soon. You as a parent can help in following ways. 

  1. Play hide and seek with your toddler, increasing your time of hiding gradually. This will teach the child that every time you are out of sight does not mean you are not coming back at all. 
  2. Try to put a bit of distance between you and the baby when he is fed and slept well. A tired and hungry toddler is more scared of separation then a satiated one. 
  3. Most of the parents who fear the tantrum, try to sneak away from the toddler when the toddler is distracted. Wrong! The right approach will be to wave good-bye even if that means you are waving bye to a wailing baby.
    Sneaking out quietly will make the child more anxious, and he/she may refuse to let you out of sight completely. 
  4. Do not hesitate to talk about some forthcoming event when you may have to take a break from your toddler. Make it sound natural, that he is going to be with grandma, or aunt while you are away. Going a step ahead, you make it look like more fun. “Ajji, has so many stories to tell you when you are with her. Isn’t it going to be so much fun?” More often than not, the child will agree with you. 
  5. Let the child hold on to familiarity of the place or an object during the initial phases of separation anxiety. 
  6. One of the biggest mistakes parents make to encourage separation anxiety in toddlers is stalling and coming back, once the child throws a tantrum. You have to learn to inform your child that you are leaving but you will return, then go without waiting or stalling when you hear the wails behind you. 
  7. You may not realize it, but you may be starting the separation anxiety in your toddler by showing off your own apprehension of leaving your child behind. Children pick up the clues of your body language more quickly than adults. Be aware of your own emotions and get them under control. 
  8. Finally, never give in to whining and wailing. Even if the toddler is swimming in the pool of pathetic sympathy seeking tactics, stick to your plans. 

Gradually, your toddler will realize that every time you enter the bathroom, you will not vanish or disappear but will come back to him/her in time. 

If your child experiences separation anxiety that doesn’t go away, even with your best efforts; then you may have to be alert to the symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder. One of symptoms to watch out for will be a continuation or reoccurrence of intense separation anxiety during the early school days. 

A child with Separation Anxiety Disorder 

  • Will not be able to function normally
  • Carry out daily activities with ease
  • Will have tough time maintaining friendships
  • Will suffer anxiety for months, not just in initial days

 You may need help and intervention from appropriate medical professional to help your child out in such case.