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Separation Anxiety and the Toddler who Clings to You like a Koala

Posted by Karen Faulkner on
Separation Anxiety and the Toddler who Clings to You like a Koala

Well it's been 11 days since my last blog! I feel like a Catholic at the confession box. I've been very busy baby whispering and helping all those little tackers love their cots that little bit more :-) And hence slight neglection of the blog. Well hello, blog and hello peeps!

Today I did a toddler group with some mummas and we explored a lot of issues. Their children are 19 months to 2 years 3 months old.

One of the main issues we discussed was separation anxiety and the toddler that clings to your leg like a limpet and won't let you get a thing done!

Separation anxiety is the real fear and distress that toddlers and children have on being separated from their parent/caregiver.

It can feel really frustrating and concerning. I'd like to give you some ways of dealing with it that make life that little bit more bearable.

Separation anxiety occurs at 6-8 months old and can occur until 2-3 years of age.

Emotional intelligence is forming by 6 months of age and reaches an optimum by 3 years of age so it is important we manage it effectively.

toddler tantrum

Separation anxiety reaches its peak in babies aged 14-18 months and typically decreases throughout early childhood. Stranger anxiety is similar to separation anxiety and involves wariness and distress in the presence of unfamiliar people. It can occur from 8-10 months and usually decreases after the child’s first birthday.

These anxieties are a normal part of the development and are nothing to be concerned about.

After all, these anxieties occur when children are becoming more mobile, so they make sense from a survival point of view – that is, if children could crawl or walk away from their carers but weren’t afraid of separation or strangers, they would get lost more easily.
    • It can start to occur when they experience being left even for a short period in unfamiliar situations such as a new daycare or at grandparents for the first time or with an unfamiliar babysitter. It is really important to make the 'leaving' or separation from the child as easy and un-traumatic as possible.

    • Even if you feel sad put on a brave face, smile and don't prolong your goodbye. Tell them that you'll be back for them soon.

    • When you do return for them remind them that you have come back for them as you promised. It reinforces faith in the parent and makes them feel less abandoned.

    • Get them involved in a familiar activity that they really enjoy before you leave. This will minimize distress.

    • To help security it can help to take a special toy or blankie along from home.

    • Do not avoid separations no matter how painful they are. This will only exacerbate the separation anxiety.

    • Try and avoid negative labels such as calling the child a 'sook' or 'a baby'. This only imprints the separation anxiety.

  • Try and remember that it won't last forever.

And in no time you'll have a confident and happy little toddler.

And if not talk to your GP, Child & Family Health Nurse or seek out a Child Psychologist. They can help you manage the situation with support and strategies.

Some more helpful resources

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