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Young child clinging to her mom

Ease Separation Anxiety with Consistency and Love

By Dr. Sherie Austin, Courthouse Pediatrics

There’s nothing quite as heartbreaking as leaving a child in the middle of a full-blown display of separation anxiety.

They sob. They cling to your legs. They beg you not to leave.

Those minutes feel like hours, but the proper response to the situation can ease the angst felt by both parent and child.

First, it’s important to know that separation anxiety is normal. Children vary widely as to how they demonstrate it, and the age at which they show it.

Separation anxiety can begin as young as a few months of age, but the full extent of it usually starts between 9 months and one year. Toddlers and preschoolers reach the developmental age when they understand you’re coming back, but that doesn’t always make it easier.

Here are some tips:

  • Be cheerful, calm, and confident.
  • Say goodbye, with your usual kisses and hugs, but don’t drag out the process. A quick transition is best.
  • Be consistent. Don’t change your plans, or give in to pleading. Don’t come back one more time for another kiss.
  • Don’t try and sneak out while they’re distracted.
  • Remind them when you’ll be back, explaining it in terms they can understand, such as “I’ll be back after your naptime.”
  • Try your best to return when you promised, and develop a consistent routine to build trust.
  • These separations can escalate with a child who is tired, sick, or hungry, so be mindful of how your child is feeling, and make sure they’re rested, feeling well, and fed.
  • Practice separations in advance if you can, by leaving a child with a relative for a short period of time before starting a new day care or school routine.
  • Help caregivers build a good relationship with your children so they’ll be happy to see them.
  • One last thing can help: The passage of time. As children get older, they adjust to time away from parents. However, if you feel your child isn’t adjusting, talk to your pediatrician for additional help.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.