Severe separation anxiety

Nikki - posted on 07/19/2011 ( 11 moms have responded )

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Anyone had any separation anxiety issues with your children?

We are having a few issues and I am at a loss with how to handle things, I think I have talked about this before on here but things are so much worse now. My daughter has always been rather clingy but lately it has come to the point where it is having such an impact on our lives.

My daughter (20 months) will not leave me alone, she cannot play by herself at all, ever. She follows me around all day crying to be picked up, pulling on my legs, pulling my hands ect.

I make sure I spend time playing with her, reading her stories, we go for walks etc but I do have things to do and obviously I would like her to learn to entertain herself for 5 minutes here and there.

A few months ago I went back to work for 8 weeks and she was in daycare, this is when the problem became severe. We also moved which I know is unsettling but since we have moved I haven't been apart from her ever (6 weeks ago) in the hope of trying to settle her and get her to feel safe and secure again, well it's not working, things seem to be getting worse not better.

Yesterday got to the point when my hubby got home from work I had to lock myself in my room for 5 minutes because she was driving me insane.

It's awful because she is so sweet, she stands and my feet and asks for cuddles constantly so I feel bad saying no but I can't carry her around all day.

To make matters worse she has been teething and not sleeping very well, so I am exhausted and she is over tired.

Any ideas on what I can do?

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Sally - posted on 07/25/2011

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Put her in a backpack. She's attached to you. You have hands free to get stuff done. You both can be happy

Stifler's - posted on 08/07/2011

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Oh I wormed him and the waking up screaming in the middle of the night stopped. Thank god for MILs even though they are hell annoying.

Connie - posted on 08/01/2011

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Each child is different. In doing daycare for years, I have had children with SEVERE separation anxiety that lasts months if not over a year. It is developmentally normal at her age, number one, even to the extent that you describe. Number two, there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO to make it stop. She has to grow out of it, learn her way out of it, as she gains the understanding that when you aren't there you don't disappear forever. Children unfortunately learn that people and things go away LONG before they learn that THEY WILL COME BACK. Especially with the move and all, she's just probably worse than she may have been otherwise, but maybe not. Play peek a boo and hide-the-toy games with her to help her learn that just because she can't see something doesn't mean it isn't there. She'll eventually get it. Until then, if you need some alone time...TAKE IT. Your frustration and stress will only feed her anxiety more. She won't die or become emotionally damaged if she has a screaming fit being left alone for a bit in another (safe) room/playpen or with someone else for a while. Actually putting her separated from you where she can still see and interact with you (and you remain happy and calm and reassuring) helps to reinforce to her that separation is OK. Will she like it? Heck no. Will she be alright? You bet. Just know that she will outgrow this. It just takes time.

Amie - posted on 07/23/2011

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All this change is going to take a lot of time to adjust too. Our kids have just settled in fully to a new community, friends, home and routine. We moved at the end of Feb. Our oldest is 11 and our youngest is 2 (as of march 29).

It takes time to adjust, it takes longer for some kids too. It's hard, really hard, for the parents though. (Especially if the kids favor one over the other.)

Our 2 yr old still follows me around some days, it is annoying but I accommodate her when I can and involve her when I can. If I truly can't (like when I'm using the stove) I distract her. If I can't distract her, she has to whine at my feet while I do what I gotta do. I've never put her in her room or anywhere during these times because I don't want her to think she's being punished. She's just stressed out and needs her mommy.

Does she have a family member who she's close with besides you or dad? A gramma? Grampa? Aunt? Uncle? Anyone? A day with them can do wonders.

As for the exhausted issue. If you don't bedshare, maybe try laying down with her in her room until she falls asleep. Or is she not in a bed yet? Either way, just being there with her until she falls asleep might help. All of mine have rough nights sometimes. The youngest two most often. If I lay down with them, run my fingers through their hair and hum to them - they drift off easily. However, I have to lay there for at least another 5 minutes so they fall into a deep sleep and I don't accidentally wake them as I'm getting up. There's even been nights I've fallen asleep in their beds or just taken them to our bed because I know I'm that tired.

I'll think some more. It's really late here and my mind is kind of all muddled.

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11 Comments

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Alison - posted on 08/22/2011

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I read that children between 18 mo-2 1/2 years are developing so much mentally they become more physically clingy to cope. Your daughter's clinginess may just be that much worse because of all the recent changes in your life. I have a girl I teach in church who cries almost the entire 2 hours her mother is away unless "nana" comes in with her. Her mother has even tried taking her to class with her (she teaches the other toddlers) but her daughter won't even get down and play there. We just do our best and that's what you do too. I agree with the comments that you accommodate her when you can and when you can't, she'll survive and eventually grow out of it.

Jessica - posted on 08/20/2011

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My son had severe seperation anxiety from 12-18 months. I couldn't even pre without him with me. I am a stay at home mom so I am always with him. I just appeased him and tried to make him as comfortable as possible. I left him as little as possible. All my housework ie left for when he is asleep. It was totally exhausting but I just figured it was a phase and that he was expressing a need. At 18 months a switch went off in him and he wasn't as anxious. He began to willingly leave me to play with family members etc.
Lately we have been seeing a little of his anxious behaviors come back at 23 months but I feel it might be bc we have started potty training.
My advice is to just try and be there as much as possible for your little one. Her clingyness won't last forever but the trust and sense of security that she gets from it will :)

Stifler's - posted on 08/03/2011

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I am out of ideas too. But thanks for giving me an idea of what's wrong with my kid! My toddler (18 months) stalks me all day, tries to steal the baby's dummy, gets into mischief when my back is turned, stands on our feet constantly trying to get near us, tries to get between me and the bench, wants to climb on us, screams when I take him to his room for a nap and refuses to lie down, screams at bedtime, screams at the door when I want to take the bin out quickly and not take 10 minutes trying to get him to come back inside, copies everything I do only wrecks things in the process. It's driving me mad.

Lissa - posted on 07/22/2011

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I think there are a lot of things going on in her life all at the same time, it's gotten worse because she is feeling unsettled add the lack of sleep and teething and you have yourself a bit of a nightmare.
Do you live near any relatives? If Mummy going away is causing a problem have you tried the psychological difference of your daughter being the one that goes away for fun without you. Do you have a playpen? Try putting her in that with some toys and getting on with what you have to do while singing and talking to her. Portable playpens are great as you can take them in each room you need to go to. When she is grabbing your legs etc try distracting her by asking her for help, give her a job to do. Give her a damp cloth and ask her to help Mummy by wiping the cupboard door. Another thought is one of these bears you can record your own message, give her that for cuddles until you can do it.

Nikki - posted on 07/20/2011

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Thank you Daniela, you have helped, if anything it is nice to know I am not the only one!!!

[deleted account]

My daughter is a lot like that (almost 23 months), though at this stage she has way more good days than bad. At least in our case it's not simply separation anxiety though. My daughter is very extrovert and kind of thrives on other people's company. On a bad day she is literally attached to my leg the entire time demanding attention. Sometimes it helps if I set her up with a toy and then quietly exit after 10 minutes or so. Putting one of her CD's on sometimes works. Involving her with the housework definitely is a winner, albeit a total pain in the neck. I also noticed that the more annoyed I get about it (even if I try not to show it) the worse her clingyness gets. We started daycare when she was 16 months old for around three mornings a week, and while she loves it there and even looks forward to going, i definitely noticed how she regressed at home. Yet again, I don't necessarely think it was down to separation anxiety, but more that being so independent so early made her want to be 'babied' a little more at home. She only started feeding herself again recently... Calming activities like painting with finger-paints or playing with play-do seem to kind of get her in the 'zone' for at least a short while, though I'd want to do stuff that's kind of right next to her. As far as sleep goes, when Nina doesn't go down for her nap, we stay in the dark or dimly lit bedroom for at least an hour anyway - kind of like a siesta. I let her pick more books, we nurse a bit more, or she might just spend the time re-arranging the nappies. It definitely helps getting through the afternoon.
If things are really bad, and you are ready to throw her out the window, would you maybe consider turning the TV on for her for a while? I know it's bad for children that young, and i certainly wouldn't do it often, but if it's not a habit and it gives you a breather...
Anyway, really sorry I can't be of more help for you. I think my daughter is slowly, slowly outgrowing it, so at least there is light at the end of the tunnel!

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