For awhile, my toddler had a bad case of separation anxiety. When I was trying to leave (or sometimes just put him down), there were times when he would cling to me for dear life. In addition, he became upset when people (from acquaintances to even his grandparents) wanted to hold him. However, this type of behavior is not strange. After all, since birth, I have been his primary caregiver. It’s natural for some children to have trouble separating. Still, whether it be for work or pleasure, there are times when caregivers have to leave their little ones. Here are some tips on how to ease toddler separation anxiety.
When my son was one and a half, I enrolled him in a ‘Parent and Me’ gym class. While I was with him during the class, he had the option of having the other instructors help him with skills like handstands and walking on a balance beam. It took him several months, but eventually he would allow the instructors to pick him up and work with him. The class also had a short interval of time where parents/caregivers would exit the main gym area and watch the supervised play time from the ‘sidelines.’ Some ballet studios and gymnastics organizations have ‘Parent and Me’ classes too. Then, when the kids enter toddlerhood or preschool age, the parents can watch from a viewing area. This way the kids can still see their parents but have some separation.
Remind Them You’ll be Back
When you leave your toddler with another caregiver, it’s a good idea to remind him or her that you will be back. In a parenting.com article, Sara Abbot, an associate director of the Family Resource Counseling Center in Los Angeles, suggests to even come up with a “goodbye ritual.” When my husband and/or I leave our children, we always give a hug and a kiss. However, you could also come up with a secret handshake or a funny saying like “see you later alligator.” The article also advises to “avoid sneaking off.”
Reading picture books with your toddler can help ease their feelings of anxiety. The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, is a New York Times bestseller about a young raccoon starting school. His mother shows him a simple way to keep her love near at all times. Although this book is about starting school, it’s appropriate for reading to kids who will be separated from their loved ones. Barnes and Noble has a list of great books for reading to children experiencing separation anxiety.
I’m happy to say my son is doing much better with allowing other people to watch him. Leaving your child isn’t always easy. However, these tips can help ease toddler separation anxiety.
More from Melissa:
A Survival Guide for Parents in the Suburbs
The Benefits of Growing Up in the ’80s
Some Tips for My Future Teenage Children