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Erase Your Child’s Separation Anxiety

This is a good article about the ways to ease separation anxiety in your children. Your goal: To get your cutie comfortable at the thought of saying goodbye. And, yes, it can be done — even with the clingiest kid.

If your baby doesn’t even whimper when you drop him off at daycare or Grandma’s, well, enjoy it while it lasts. One fine day, he’ll show his displeasure at being left behind, even if you’re just headed to the bathroom.

1. Expect it sooner 

Thought you could escape tearful goodbyes until toddlerhood? Not a chance. Separation anxiety can start anywhere from 7 to 9 months, says Mary Margaret Gleason, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics, psychiatry, and neurology at Tulane University in New Orleans. That’s the age your baby realizes you are the go-to person for all good things, like comfort, love, and security. And thanks to object permanence—his ability to remember the people and things he loves even if they’re not around—he knows his safety net is gone when you’re not there.

2. See the silver lining.

At this age separation anxiety is normal, a healthy sign that your baby’s development is right on cue. Here’s another reason to pat yourself on the back: All those months you spent soothing your colicky baby or dragging yourself out of bed for another 2 a.m. feeding have taught your baby she can count on you. Of course, you’re not the only person in your baby’s inner circle, but if you are the one spending the most time with her, expect the wails to be louder when you walk out the door.

3. Don’t confuse stranger and separation anxiety.

They may travel together, says Dr. Gleason, but stranger anxiety and separation anxiety are two different things. Stranger anxiety is when your baby’s wary of unfamiliar faces—even your mom’s. If that person gets close, your little one will fuss or fall apart, even if he’s in your arms. It’s yet another sign that he knows who’s in his tribe. So tell people to take it slow, and not to take his tears personally.

4. Don’t be caught off-guard when it continues.

Sad to say, but separation anxiety can last through toddlerhood, when your newly mobile tot suddenly catches on that he can walk or run away from you. And even though toddlers know more about the world, their grasp on time is shaky—so saying you’re just going out to the grocery store means nothing to them, says Elizabeth Pantley, author of the No-Cry series, including The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution.

5. Don’t blame your situation.

Kids who’ve gone to daycare since day one are just as likely to experience separation anxiety as the child with a stay-at-home parent, say experts. And since separation anxiety has more to do with your cutie’s attachment to you, you really can’t head it off by leaving her as a newborn—or leaving her in the care of others as often as you can.

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