5 ways to deal with separation anxiety

It’s natural for little ones to feel anxious when you say goodbye. Follow these top tips to smoothen the transition.

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For Mirta Syazanna’s 16-month-old daughter, Maira, seeing her mum simply go into the bathroom and closing the door can cause a meltdown. Mirta shares, “[She also] cries whenever my husband [and] I leave the house for work, even when her grandparents are around. The good news is the tears only lasts for a few minutes.

Mirta’s experiences with Maira is a text-book example of separation anxiety, a natural occurrence of your baby’s developmental process. While it is hard to determine when your child might start showing signs, most doctors agree it can happen any time after 6 months and usually peaks when junior turns 2.

Mother of two daughters, Sharon Tan, 26, says, “I noticed that [my older daughter] didn’t have such behaviour until she was a little more than 1 year old. Perhaps that’s when she started to have a clearer [idea] of what’s going on around her.”

“[Some] children settle down within a few days, some a few weeks and some can even take up to a couple of months.”

To further complicate matters, the extent of your tot’s separation anxiety can also vary day-to-day and will be different to how his peers handle it. Ayman Zaidi, a preschool teacher at Bright Kids School House, says, “[Some] children settle down within a few days, some a few weeks and some can even take up to a couple of months.”

Dr Nancy Tan, a paed at SBCC Baby & Child Clinic, points out that this form of anxiety tends to occur more in babies who spend very little or a lot of time with their primary caregivers.

If you are worried all that howling and anxiety maybe damaging to baby’s health, Dr Tan puts your mind at ease which this piece of advice, “It is actually a sign that your baby has healthy attachments to loved ones.”

Nevertheless, having to deal with your tyke’s tears can get pretty tiring and challenging — especially when you are trying not to be late for work. Here are nifty ways to nip your kewpie’s anxiety in the bud.

TIP #1: Practise separation for brief periods of time

Settle your sweetie in her chair or rocker. Then tell her you’re going into another room and will be right back. While she may not be able to understand the words, informing her should always be part of the “goodbye ritual” (scroll down for more info on this).

You don’t have to leave the house — especially if it means leaving your baby unsupervised — for these exercises to work. From disappearing to another room, you can slowly progress to running short errands nearby. Be sure to leave your baby in the hands of a loved one, nanny or helper, never alone.

Remember to do these exercises after a feed or after she’s just woken up from her nap. A tired and hungry baby is definitely crankier and harder to say goodbye to.

TIP #2: Start training them early

It’ll be wise to start your child’s separation-training early, especially before they start preschool. Six months is a good time to start letting him get used to adjusting to relatives, nannies or helpers in your absence. Dr Tan also advises that you sign your kiddo up to join play groups or preschool by as early as age 3 or 4 so that they are familiar with being around other people.