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Article: How To Soothe a Toddler's Separation Anxiety?

How To Soothe a Toddler's Separation Anxiety?

How To Soothe a Toddler's Separation Anxiety?

When a toddler experiences separation anxiety, it can be difficult for both the toddler and the parent. Some new parents are confused and overwhelmed by their toddlers’ separation anxiety.

Today's blog will cover some basic information about separation anxiety in babies.

What is the separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a common stage of early babyhood development in which babies experience distress when they are away from their primary caregiver. It usually starts around 8 to 12 months of age and can last until around 3 years of age. During this time, the baby may cry, cling, or throw tantrums when the parent leaves. Separation anxiety is a normal part of growing up and usually improves with age and experience.

Age-by-age symptoms of separation anxiety

Infants (6-12 months):

Infants may begin to show signs of separation anxiety around 6 to 12 months of age. They often cry or fuss when their parents leave the room. They may also cling to their parents and become upset when encountering unfamiliar people. This is a normal developmental stage of babies.

Toddler (1-3 years):

Toddlers usually show more intense symptoms of separation anxiety. They may cry, throw tantrums, or refuse to be comforted by other adults when their parents leave. Bedtime may also be challenging, with toddlers resisting falling asleep or waking frequently at night to seek reassurance. Toddlers may become more aware of their surroundings and more attached to their parents, which may exacerbate their anxiety.

Preschoolers (3-5 years):

Preschoolers still experience separation anxiety, but symptoms usually become less intense. They may express fear of separation or show reluctance to go to kindergarten or daycare. Although preschoolers can also be clingy and cry, they generally understand better that their parents will return than toddlers.

School-age children (5-8 years):

Separation anxiety in school-age children may be characterized by reluctance to go to school, and frequent complaints of physical symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches. They may constantly seek reassurance and find it difficult to concentrate on things when their parents are not around. Children of this age are more adept at verbalizing their fears, which can help parents understand their concerns directly.

How long does separation anxiety last?

Separation anxiety typically begins around 8 months of age and can last until about 3 years of age. Most children outgrow separation anxiety naturally as they have more experience away from their parents and develop a sense of security.

However, the intensity and duration of separation anxiety will vary for each child. If separation anxiety persists beyond early childhood or seriously interferes with daily activities, it is best to consult a pediatrician or child psychologist for further guidance.

A Distressed Mother Holds Her Crying Daughter In Her Arms

What causes separation anxiety in toddlers?

Here are some reasons about why toddlers have separation anxiety:

Developmental stages:

Separation anxiety is a normal part of a young baby's development. They may have anxiety when they are separated from their primary caregiver.

Changes in routine:

Any major change in a toddler's daily routine, such as starting daycare, moving to a new home, or having a new caregiver, can trigger separation anxiety. These changes can undermine their sense of security and make them more anxious about leaving their parents.

Parental anxiety:

Toddlers are very perceptive and can pick up on their parents' anxiety. If a parent is particularly anxious or nervous about leaving their babies, a toddler may reflect this emotion, thus increasing their anxiety about the separation.

Past experiences:

Previous experiences of separation from a parent can also affect a toddler's level of anxiety. If a toddler has experienced a traumatic separation or an extended period away from a primary caregiver, they may develop a stronger fear of being left alone again.

Attachment styles:

The nature of the attachment between a young toddler and their primary caregiver can have an impact on separation anxiety. In general, toddlers with secure attachments will be more confident and have lower levels of anxiety at separation, while toddlers with insecure attachments may have higher levels of anxiety at separation.

Temperament:

A toddler’s individual temperament can affect how they react to separation. Some young toddlers are naturally more anxious or sensitive and therefore more prone to separation anxiety. These toddlers may need more reassurance and comfort during separation.

How to soothe a toddler's separation anxiety?

Here are some tips on how to soothe a toddler’s separation anxiety for your reference:

Establish a goodbye routine:

Establishing a consistent and simple goodbye routine can make young toddlers feel more secure. This can be a special hug, a wave at the door, or a cheerful "Bye!" . Keeping goodbyes short and positive can reduce anxiety and make the separation easier for both parents and toddlers.

Practice short separations:

Gradually introducing short periods of separation can help toddlers become more comfortable with being away from their parents. Start by separating your toddler from a trusted caregiver for a few minutes and then slowly extend the time. This helps the toddler understand that the separation is temporary and that the parent will always return. 

Provide a comforting object:

A familiar object, such as a favorite toy or blanket, can give your toddler comfort and reassurance during separation. Having something familiar to hold onto can make them feel more secure and less anxious.

Do the preparation:

Talking with your toddler can help reduce anxiety. For example, explaining to your toddler who will take care of them while their parents are away and what they will be doing can give them a sense of security. Reading books about separation or playing games that involve leaving and coming back can also help.

Give positive encouragement:

Praising your toddler for handling separation well can encourage positive behavior. Simple rewards, such as stickers or extra playtime, can motivate your toddler to be brave and cope better with the separation.

Stay consistent:

Keeping a consistent routine and predictability can help reduce anxiety. Regular mealtimes, naps, and playtimes can make toddlers feel more secure and less anxious about separation. Being consistent helps them know what to expect and when they will see their parents again.

When to find a pediatrician for help?

If a child's separation anxiety symptoms are severe or persist beyond the typical age range, parents should consider seeking help from their pediatrician. If a young child continues to experience intense anxiety past the age of 3, this may be a sign that professional guidance is needed. In addition, if a child's anxiety is seriously interfering with daily activities such as going to daycare, sleeping, or socializing, it is wise to seek advice from a pediatrician.

Conclusion

In summary, easing separation anxiety in toddlers requires understanding their developmental needs and providing ongoing support. Establishing predictable goodbye routines, practicing short separations, and providing comfort items can help ease their anxiety. Parents should remain calm and confident, keep their word, and prepare their toddlers for separation well in advance.

If anxiety persists beyond the age of 3 or seriously interferes with daily activities, it is advisable to seek advice from a pediatrician. With patience and the right strategies, most toddlers will gradually outgrow their separation anxiety. 

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Yujia Shi

An expert in sleep sack design, is a valued contributor to Kaiya Baby's blog. With a strong background in baby sleep bags and maternal care, she is highly regarded for her professionalism. Yujia Shi prioritizes baby comfort and safety in her designs, using high-quality materials. Her insightful articles on sleep bags have been featured in reputable publications and have gained a significant readership. Trust Yujia Shi to help you create a comfortable and safe sleep environment for your baby, backed by her proven track record in the industry.

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