One of the hardest moments in parenting is separating from your child against his or her will. Whether it’s during drop off at school, when leaving for work, or while slipping in to the other room to get something done-it’s never easy to pry yourself free from the clutches of your sweet baby and then listen to the wailing as you exit the room.
However, if you think of it as an important developmental milestone, it may ease the pain (at least a little, I hope). Remember, your child is learning that when you are not with her, you are actually somewhere else. This is an important concept for children to comprehend. With time, she will learn that when you leave, you will soon come back. And the more that happens, the easier it will be for her to anticipate your return, and the less upsetting the process will become. It will also be empowering for her as she grows to know that she can take on new challenges on her own. It is setting the groundwork for many more accomplishments to come. Keep in mind, one of your roles as a parent is to guide your child towards independence as it is developmentally appropriate.
Separation anxiety typically peaks between 10 and 18 months, and for most children ends by age 2. Here are a few tips to ease the transitions:
Don’t draw out the process. Be quick and firm about it-I love you and I will see you soon. Kiss and exit. If she senses your ambivalence about leaving, it will make the process harder.
Have a quick routine so your child will know what to expect. For example, kiss each hand, her forehead and then her nose before you say goodbye. Having a ritual helps children know what to expect.
Have little practice sessions at home. For instance, walk out of the room for a few minutes and then come back. Repeat this several times per day so your child understands the concept of leaving and returning.
Know that in most situations the screaming doesn’t last long and that distractions usually work well. If you need reassurance, ask your babysitter or your child’s teacher how long the crying typically lasts. Most times it will be shorter than you think.
Separation anxiety can come and go. Sometimes children start off the school year easily and then in the middle of the winter start crying with each separation. Know that it will eventually pass.
Also be sure to appreciate this precious time. As your child grows up, YOU will be the one having a harder time saying good bye as she runs out the door to be with her friends.