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From a scale of 1 to 10, how much does your little munchkin freak out when you leave the room?
Is she a 1?
I'm totally enjoying bouncing in my Exersaucer mom... I will let you know when I'm hungry or if there's a stinky poopoo in my pants!
Or is she a 10?
Momma... you turned around. Are you leaving me? Where are you going... waaaaah!
My daughter is pretty much around a 9, and it's quite challenging at times. She had a little anxiety in the past, like when I would put her to bed and walk away. I noticed a huge increase when I went back to work. Some days are good, and others bad... there's weeks that are high, and others low.
Clues That Point to Anxiety
Think about the past week and ask yourself:
- Was she more clingy than usual?
- Does she seem more anxious around naptime, and being alone?
- Does she cry when you leave the room or are out of sight?
- Does her mood improve when she sees your face?
Ways to Help Overcome Seperation Anxiety
The main emotion that your little one feels is fear. So the best way to help overcome anxiety, is to build their self confidence.
1. Make sure she's not overtired.
It's very important to stick to a schedule, and create a bedtime routine. The little brain will start making melatonin once it recognises the sleep routine. If you miss that window, the brain will start secreting the hormone cortisol... this is a stress hormone. So if you're little Munchkin is already taken over by cortisol, and you decide to leave her... major shit storm!
Learn to set up a routine throughout the day, which includes the needed naps. When it gets closer to bedtime, you may want to get into the routine of giving them a bath. Then once that's done, maybe curl up on the couch, bed, or rocking chair and read a bedtime story. Being well rested throughout the day, really does work wonders.
2. Introduce her to Pinky
Pinky is a small security blanket, or stuffed animal, that can sit as a substitute for a parent. My daughter has a security blanket that has a little pink bunny attatched to the end of it. Pinky cuddles with her while feeding, storytime, in the car, etc. When she holds and looks at the bunny, she smells and thinks of me... which is meant to make her feel like I'm with her, even when I'm not.
3. Introduce quiet time
- Put her in the crib with some toys and a book and play with her while she's in the crib. Try and do this for a few days, for at least 10-15 minutes at a time.
- Put her in the crib with some toys and a book, but this time don't play with her. Sit in the same room and read a book, or entertain yourself in some way, while she plays for 10 - 15 minutes.. DON'T USE THE CELLPHONE OR TV AS A DISTRACTION.
- Repeast step two, but after a few minutes after she appears engaged, leave the room for a few minutes. If she cries, return with smiles and sit down. Keep repeating until you can leave for a few minutes... keep letting the time get longer.
- Put her down for quiet time and leave the room. Let her play alone for 30 minutes or so, and add some soothing background music if needed.
Things To Avoid When Handing Separation Anxiety
- Don't sneak away. When you sneak away, it just makes things worse in the long run. It highlights to your child that they have to be looking or touching you at all times... if not, then you may just disappear. When you want to leave the room, give them a hug or a confident goodbye. Even though it will seem hard in the beginning for you to leave, it's a vital step in the learning process that you DO come back.
- Don't act sad when you leave. If you appear to be sad or stressed to be leaving, they will copy your behaviour while you're gone. Put a smile on your face... it will eventually make it easier on both of you.
- Don't hand them off. When you're trying to leave them at the babysitters or daycare, don't have the caregiver pry her fingers away. If you were to do this, it would just make the whole experience traumatic. Instead, get on the floor with some toys and have the caregiver be next to them. Once she's interested in something, give a confident smile, maybe a kiss on the head and say " Goodbye, my Love!", and let the caregiver take over. Your little one will probably scream and cry for a bit, but since there's plenty of toys around, it shouldn't last too long.
Does your little one struggle with separation anxiety? How have you been trying to deal with it? My daughter is in the process of overcoming the nightime separation anxiety, as I've gone back to work fairly recently.