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Does your child have separation anxiety? How to know

This stage, like so many others in childhood, will pass.

Does your child have separation anxiety? How to know

Nothing a parent does can "make" their baby develop separation anxiety. It's a perfectly normal and important developmental adaptation. Nearly all children experience separation anxiety between the ages of 7 and 18 months. Some have more intense reactions than others, and for some, the stage lasts longer than others, but almost all babies have it to some degree.

The development of separation anxiety demonstrates that your baby has formed a healthy, loving attachment to you. It is a beautiful sign that your baby associates pleasure, comfort, and security with your presence.

It also indicates that your baby is developing intellectually (in other words, they're smart!) They have learned they can have an effect on their world when they make their needs known, and they don't have to passively accept a situation that makes them uncomfortable. They don't know enough about the world yet to understand that when you leave you'll always come back.

They also realize they are safest, happiest, and best cared for by you, so their reluctance to part makes perfect sense especially when viewed from a survival standpoint. Put another way: You are baby's source of nourishment, both physical and emotional; therefore, baby's attachment to you is a means of survival, and when they reach a certain level of intellectual maturity, they realize this.

This stage, like so many others in childhood, will pass. In time, your baby will learn that they can separate from you, that you will return, and that everything will be okay between those two points in time. Much of this learning is based on trust, which, just as for every human being young or old, takes time to build.

How do I know if my baby has separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is pretty easy to spot, and you're probably reading this section because you've identified it in your baby. The following are behaviors typically demonstrated by a baby with normal separation anxiety:

  • Clinginess
  • Crying when a parent is out of sight
  • Strong preference for only one parent
  • Fear of strangers
  • Waking at night crying for a parent
  • Easily comforted in a parent's embrace

How you can help your baby with separation anxiety

1. Allow your baby to be a baby

It's perfectly okay — even wonderful — for your baby to be so attached to you and for them to desire your constant companionship. Congratulations, Mommy or Daddy: It's evidence that the bond you've worked so hard to create is holding. So politely ignore those who tell you otherwise.

2. Don't worry about spoiling baby with your love, since quite the opposite will happen

The more you meet baby's attachment needs during babyhood, the more confident and secure they will grow up to be.

3. Minimize separations when possible

While you may need to head back to work or have to run an errand alone, try to bring your little when possible. It's perfectly acceptable for now to avoid those situations that would have you separate from your baby. All too soon, your baby will move past this phase and on to the next developmental milestone.

4. Give your baby lessons in object permanence

As your baby learns that things continue to exist even when they can't see them, they'll feel better about letting you out of their sight. Games like peek-a-boo and hide-and-seek will help her understand this phenomenon.

5. Practice with quick, safe separations

Throughout the day, create situations of brief separation. When you go into another room, whistle, sing or talk to your baby so they know you're still there, even though they can't see you.

6. Don't sneak away when you have to leave

It may seem easier than dealing with a tearful goodbye, but it will just cause the baby constant worry that you're going to disappear without warning at any given moment. The result? Even more clinginess, and diminished trust in your relationship.

7. Tell your baby what to expect

If you are going to the store and leaving baby home with Grandma, explain where you are going and tell them when you'll be back. Eventually, they'll come to understand your explanations.

8. Don't rush the parting, but don't prolong it, either

Give your baby ample time to process your leave-taking, but don't drag it out and make it more painful for both of you.

9. Express a positive attitude when leaving

If you're off to work, or an evening out, leave with a smile. Your baby will absorb your emotions, so if you're nervous about leaving, they'll be nervous too. Your confidence will help alleviate baby's fears.

10. Leave your baby with familiar people

If you must leave your baby with a new caregiver, try to arrange a few visits when you'll all be together before you leave the two of them alone for the first time.

11. Invite distractions

If you're leaving your baby with a caregiver or relative, encourage that person to get your baby involved with playtime as you leave. Say a quick goodbye and let your baby be distracted by an interesting activity.

12. Allow your baby the separation that they initiate

For example, if they crawl off to another room, don't rush after baby. Listen and peek, of course, to make sure they're safe, but let them know it's fine to go off exploring on their own.

13. Encourage their relationship with a special toy if they have one

These are called transitional objects or loveys. They can be a comfort to baby when they're separated from you. Many babies adopt blankets or soft toys as loveys, holding them to ease any pain of separation. The lovey becomes a friend and represents security in the face of change.

14. Don't take it personally

Many babies go through a stage of attaching themselves to one parent or the other. The other parent, as well as grandparents, siblings and friends can find this difficult to accept, but try to reassure them that it's just a temporary and normal phase of development and with a little time and gentle patience it will pass.

This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)

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1. Allow your baby to be a baby

It's perfectly okay—even wonderful—for your baby to be so attached to you and for them to desire your constant companionship. Congratulations, Mommy or Daddy: It's evidence that the bond you've worked so hard to create is holding. So politely ignore those who tell you otherwise.

14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Detective set

Plan Toys detective set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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