For me personally, being someone’s mother has been filled with joy, anxiety, laughter, anxiety, love and some more anxiety. I never understood what the saying meant ‘to live with your heart outside your body’ till I had my first child. Coping with my own fears and anxieties related to my intense need to protect, nurture and create the best possible life for my child has been challenging enough, but coping with their own anxieties was something completely new. This was the time I refer to as, the time I couldn’t wear pants, because the baby would follow me everywhere, needing to see and touch me constantly, and try to climb up my legs, pulling off my pants… Oh the joys of motherhood!!
Separation anxiety is a normal developmental stage, therefore there is no test for a diagnosis or a treatment. Though it is normal, it can be a real challenge for the parents as separation anxiety is anxiety a child feels when separated from the primary caregiver (usually the mom).
Separation anxiety usually begins around 8 months old and ends around 2 years old.
The cause of separation anxiety, is the baby’s understanding that something unusual is happening. In the early infant period the baby grows familiar with their home, parents and usual caretakers. Mom equals safety and security. In later infancy, a lack of familiarity produces fear. They recognize that people or places are new and therefore may be unsafe, especially when separated from their parents.
To get over separation anxiety:
- baby must feel safe in their home environment
- trust that the parents will return
- trust the caregiver they are with
To help baby get over separation anxiety:
- Play peek-a-boo, so baby can see you leave and return.
- Remain calm, and reassure baby that he is safe. If mommy is freaking out, that will tell baby that he should be freaking out too.
- Let trusted babysitters watch your baby so they learn that this is safe and normal.
Most children will experience some degree of separation anxiety during unfamiliar or stressful times, such as a hospitalization or illness, or even starting a new school.
- During medical procedures, stay with your child as much as possible. Children feel less pain and discomfort during procedures when a parent is with them.
- Explain the situation, reassuring the child that you will be waiting and be specific about where you are waiting.
- Expose the child to the situation before hand if possible. An organized walk through of a new situation can alleviate some anxiety.
For older children that have not outgrown separation anxiety in the appropriate time frame, or who have regressed under times of stress, some treatments may include:
- Anti-anxiety medications
- Changes in parenting techniques
- Family and/or individual counseling.
Someday, I’m told, they won’t want us around at all, let alone every minute of every day!