When Baby is Clingy: Tips on How to Handle Separation Anxiety


Most of the parents I know experienced these scenarios:

You need to re-enter the workforce after years of being a housewife and a full-time mother. The day came when you have to leave home and start your first day on a new office job. As you go for the door, your child becomes too clingy and anxious about you leaving, that she couldn’t stop crying and is literally having a meltdown.

These are all signs of separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a normal development stage that usually starts between 6 months to 1 year and can last up to 24 months.  Your child may exhibit anxiety when she doesn’t see you, even for a short time, around six months.  Her concept of object permanence is a good indication that she reached a developmental milestone: She is now aware that objects still exist even if they’re hidden from sight.

5 Tips on How to Ease Your Child’s Separation Anxiety

  1. Be consistent.  Even if your child does not have a concept of time yet, make sure to come back at a time you promised, a time that she understands. For example, gently tell her you’ll be back as soon as she wakes up from her afternoon nap, or after she had her lunch.
  2. Never sneak out. You need to prepare your child for the short term separation at least 30 minutes before you leave, with hugs and cuddles, and setting her expectations.
  3. If you can avoid it, never change your caregiver or nanny at a time when separation anxiety is at its peak. The behavior usually peaks around 1 year to 18 months
  4. Be firm when leaving. Prolonging the agony is not good for both of you. When you leave, mean it, and do not show the child you’re anxious of leaving her as well.  Do not come running back the moment she critic will only encourage the child to use pleading tactics to make you stay.  Eventually, the child will learn to understand that you always come back even if you leave.
  5. Let the security blanket or favorite toy distract her for the time being. Instruct your caregiver to find out what she likes to do while you’re away, and make sure that her security blanket or toy is with her. Kids are comforted by their security objects.

Consistency, trustworthiness and assurance are keys to making your child comfortable about being separated from you for a few hours each day. Once she learns that you will never leave her, hopefully the separation anxiety subsides by the 24th month. If it exceeds 24 months and you suspect she might have other issues, please consult your pediatrician.


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