There will probably come a time when your toddler will be afraid to be apart from you, such as when they need to be left with a babysitter or when you leave them at day care. For most young children this may begin at around six to eight months of age, once they are able to recognise the difference between their family members and strangers. However, as they get older, their confidence will increase and usually by the age of 2 .5 to 4our years, this anxiety will settle down.
There are some signs you can look out for to help recognise if your toddler is experiencing separation anxiety. They may:
- Cry or struggle when you are attempting to put them down or hand them over to someone else
- Tell you they’re not feeling well
- Worry about you or themselves getting hurt or being in an accident
- Refuse to go to day care or even other people’s homes if they know you won’t be with them.
Here are some tips on how to help relieve your toddler’s anxiety about being apart from you:
- Make sure your little one knows when you are leaving. Sneaking out when they’re settled may seem like a good idea but it can upset or confuse them when they realise you’re not there. It can also set a pattern and may make it more difficult to leave the next time
- Tell your toddler when you will be back in a way they can understand, such as after nap time. Be consistent in returning when you said you would, to ease their anxiety. If something comes up and you can’t get back on time, let the person who is minding your toddler know so they can let them know
- When leaving your toddler, such as at day care or with a babysitter, it is a good idea to spend some time with them before the separation. You could take them on a tour or play with them for a while to help them know they are being left in a safe place
- Start an activity they enjoy before you leave to help keep them calm. You can also try leaving them with an object that they love, like their favourite toy or stuffed animal.
- Don’t drag out goodbyes when you’re leaving your little one and try to make your expression relaxed and happy so they know there’s nothing to worry about
- Games can help your toddler accept being separated from you. Play hide and seek with them so they learn that when you go away you come back
- Reading stories that involve a theme of separation, such as fairy tales, as this may increase their understanding.
Remember, separation anxiety is something many children experience. However, if your toddler appears to be distressed on a regular basis about being away from you, be sure to see a health care professional. A child’s heath and overall happiness can be affected by severe anxiety.