Ease Separation Anxiety

Many infants, toddlers and preschoolers have separation anxiety, and sometimes parents do as well. It’s always hard leaving your child, especially when they’re crying and asking you not to leave.

What can you do as a parent to help ease separation anxiety for both you and your child? Follow these tips and over time, it will get easier.

Before your child begins child care or school, have practice runs of being apart.

Drop your child off at a family member or friend’s house, even if it’s just for an hour or so. This will give your child time to prepare and adjust to being away from you.

Be quick with goodbyes.

The longer you stick around, the harder it is for both you and your child to separate. To help with saying goodbye, create a goodbye routine between you and your child. Some examples are kisses, a special saying, a secret handshake or leave a toy or blanket with your child when you depart. Practice this routine with your child before he or she starts child care or school.

Build trust with your child through consistency and keeping promises.

Strive to have the same routine every time you separate from your child – the same drop off time, location and goodbye ritual, and show up at the time your child expects you to return, explaining it in a way they understand – “I’ll be back before your afternoon snack,” or “I’ll be back after nap time.” This will help your child build trust and independence.

Once you leave your child, do not go back again until it is time to pick them up.

It’s hard to leave your child when they’re screaming and crying and begging you not to leave, but you need to stay firm and stick to your promise as to when you are returning. This not only throws off your child – you have to start the goodbye process over again.

Healthychildren.org has additional resources to help with separation anxiety, such as preparing your child for child care and making drop off at child care easier. If you find that your child still has a hard time dealing with separation after preschool, talk with your pediatrician.