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Family Matters: Separation Anxiety


My older son Curt was a toddler when his baby brother was born. Curt was a highly portable child, going with the flow and running around with me with very little fuss or muss. He could run errands with me or easily be dropped off at the gym or church nurseries.

When Luke was old enough to go to the gym nursery so I could try to workout, around the time he was 7 months old, I was in for a shock.

He screamed. And screamed. And screamed. I couldn’t leave him. We finally got to the point where I’d drop him off and catapult up the gym steps to try to get any kind of workout in before the nursery paged me to come get my inconsolable child. After a few times, I realized that sprinting up the stairs was going to be the extent of my workout for a while.

Separation anxiety is quite common between 7 and 12 months of age, and can be even longer if baby has never been away from you.

To help ease separation anxiety, visit the place you’re going to leave your child the day before you need to drop him off. Stay and play with your baby. Leave together. When you come back, make sure the caregiver knows your expectations on how long it is acceptable to let your baby cry. Then, hand your baby over to the caregiver, give him a kiss and leave. Immediately. If he cries, the caregiver should page you/call you/come get you at the predetermined time interval, whether two minutes or 10 minutes feels right to you. After the routine is established, it should get easier. I used to work in a church nursery, and the worst thing I saw parents do was come back to “check.” If the caregiver hasn’t contacted you, chances are baby is fine. Peeking in and risking baby glimpsing you could set him off all over again – back to square one. And, if the experience is too traumatic for the both of you; don’t do it. Try again in a few weeks or months.

 

TIP: Babies love to play in boxes. Get an old shoebox, with lid, and fill it with a variety of small items; toys, little stuffed animals, plastic shapes, etc.  Be sure to vary the sizes, colors and textures. Give baby the box and show him out to take the lid off. Let him play with the box before dumping out the objects inside.


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