Submitted by Kids ‘R’ Kids of Atlanta, GA.
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Separation anxiety is both a normal and often a temporary stage of life for a child, though it can feel like an unending battle. Babies may begin to show separation anxiety around seven or eight months and may peak around 10-18 months. In this time frame they display distress when a beloved caregiver leaves their sight. This is related to a change in the baby’s relationship to their parents. No longer content to just have their needs satisfied, they have become enormously attached to those individuals who have met those needs.
Signs of a true attachment are as intense as those in love and, even though expressed with loud cries and distress, are cause for celebration. All the hard work of parenting a young infant has resulted in this strong feeling of love. At this stage of attachment, the baby experiences the parent’s disappearance as a loss. With a shaky new sense of object permanence (the understanding that things and people exist when they’re not present), they may fear that when their mother or father go away they will never coming back. This clinginess may be upsetting to some parents unless they understand its origin is in attachment and limited understanding.
Over time, with repeated parting and return, the baby comes to understand the process of being apart, and becomes calmer about this process. Parents need to be gentle in their understanding of the baby’s strong feelings, and communicating their leaving and future return. In other words, kindly explain to your baby that you are leaving, but you will be back! By consistently returning, your child will begin to see the pattern that when you leave, you do return.
At about the same time, a related anxiety may occur in some infants. This is stranger anxiety, protesting when less familiar faces come too close. Not to be interpreted as sudden shyness that must be combated, by this age the baby has learned to distinguish his own people, and feels less comfortable with others. Again, gentle understanding and not forcing the issue at this point are the appropriate responses. With time, both separation and stranger anxiety lessen, occasionally reappearing during the toddler years.
How To Prepare Your Child For Separation
Begin The Process At Home: Incorporate moments of safely leaving your child in a room without you then return soon after. This helps your child to get used to not having you around every moment.
Build In Time: Do not drop your child off so quickly that you give them no time to adjust. Build in time to greet the teacher/daycare provider together, so they don’t feel left with a stranger.
When You’re Ready To Leave, Leave: Do not linger in the “goodbye.” Simply state a firm “goodbye” to your child and leave. Lingering will send mixed signals.
Come Back!: Returning to pick up your child with a happy face will help aid in a better drop off and pick up the next time. Again, part of the process of quelling separation anxiety is building in a happy return to look forward to.
Most importantly to know, separation anxiety is normal and often temporary. Creating good habits now will aid in a better transition in the future should your toddler begin to experience anxiety again.
Kids ‘R’ Kids believes that happy, loved, connected children are destined for success in every facet of their lives. Our most cherished principle, “Hug First, Then Teach,” defines every aspect of who we are at Kids ‘R’ Kids. When it comes to teaching, Kids ‘R’ Kids understands the importance of involving families with their child’s developmental milestones and accomplishments. We hope you will drop by for a tour at one of our many locations in the Atlanta area. You will find a list of our numerous locations at www.kidsrkidsatlanta.com or on Facebook and Twitter.