Separation anxiety in a toddler - ignore or cater to it?

[deleted account] ( 15 moms have responded )

If your toddler- 1, 2, or 3 years old was consistently resisting separating from mom, what do you do?

For the purposes of this discussion, Im talking particulalry about elective separations - situations where you could care for your child but have made other arrangements - either they are going to a play group, or preschool, or you were planning "me" time to leave the child with the father or another family member. I'd like to leave the daycare situation out of this since many don't have a choice about being wohm (although I suppose it could apply to those who "chose" to work when they are not required to for financial reasons.)

for the sake of debate, say there is no concern that the child is being mistreated with the alternate care giver. Also the separation angst is fairly generlized to different settings.

the question then is - in situations of elective separation from your toddler, if your toddler is consistently resisting them, does that mean that you should step up the amount of separations so they get used to them, or would it be better to back of the time away from your toddler since they apperently don't like it and seek to need you?


[deleted account]

I think neither ignoring them or catering to them is the way to go. You should offer them oppurtunities to leave mam alone such as take them to a playgroup where they can socialise with other children which will not only make them a little more independant they will gain confidence too (over here in the UK parents socialise with eachother at playgroups so the children still have the security of their mams being there). Making sure they know mam will return is important too so peek-a-boo can help get them used to that too.

Kylie - posted on 07/09/2010




My son, I am sure, loves me to bits, but he's not that bothered if he goes to someone else, and is very chilled and relaxed. He's one.

I have a very good mummy friend, and her daughter is the opposite. if her mum goes to the kitchen, she screams, or goes looking for her, with tears streaming down her face.

I've started taking care of her for one morning every 2 weeks, to get her used to it. She still screams, but not as bad, and she will nap. Or she'll play or watch tv, its definitely got better.

I think its important for children to develop trust in others, and form attachments with other people, in a supportive environment.

Amber - posted on 07/08/2010




I went through this a bit with my son when he was about 18months. I didn't ignore it or cater to it; I kind of did something in the middle. I would go about 15 minutes early (it was almost always my mom's house) and I would get him settled in. I would spend that time getting him comfortable, but I would NOT hold him. My mom would hold and snuggle him. We also had special toys that he had at mom's house as a bit of an incentive.
Then, when it was time for me to go, I would tell him goodbye. He would cry, but I knew that if I never let him stay somewhere without me that it would make seperation harder on both of us later.
I personally believe that the more you cater to your child's tantrums, the more likely they are to keep having them. So, while I refused to stop leaving him with my mom (once every other week or so). I also made sure that I wasn't just walking in and dropping him off so quickly that it was confusing.


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Jackie - posted on 07/20/2010




The way I took the initial post was that "ignoring" was just leaving your child at times....which I don't see as ignoring...I agree that is not good. But I def. don't agree with catering to themt ot he point you never go out. It is def. no good for your marriage if you never have time alone, and it does reinforce the behavior that they get what they want for 1, and 2 that they shouldn't feel safe without you. IF my daughter does show signs of being upset we just tell her how much fun seh will have etc etc....and leave...and as stated above...within minutes they are typically perfectly fine.

Lyndsay - posted on 07/19/2010




I've never had a huge issue with this... sometimes when my hubby and I go out together, my son will scream and cry as we're leaving. I believe this is because very rarely get to go out together alone, and he's used to being able to come everywhere with either both of us or be left home with the other one. When this happens, I just give him a hug and kiss and tell him I'll see him later. I will call in 10 minutes and by that time he's perfectly recovered and playing happily with my mom or whoever is babysitting him. We will try to be home before he goes to bed, or at least go in his room to see him when we get home, so he knows we're back.

I think its important to address the issue, you can't just ignore your child's feelings... but if you just give up and decide to stay home anyway, you're not helping your child to work through it and you're just reinforcing the behaviour.

Ellen - posted on 07/18/2010




Of my 5 daughters, only one experienced separation anxiety. She cried all through church nursery, and even at my friends' house (we watched each others kids on date nights). I read somewhere that when our little ones go through that its b/c they 'do' need us and staying away doesn't ease their anxiety. So, we took our little one on our dates and kept kept her with us in church. She was the most sweet and well behaved baby!!! And as she got older, the crying's stopped. And she got over it and played well with others. She's now the most outgoing, wonderful, 17 yr. old girl. These little ones know what they're feelen and they can only communicate through tears.

I'm not saying keep the child with you 100 percent of the time, but little by little see how she does without you. Then decide.

Once in the nursery, this little one of mine (almost 1) was crying in the nursery, but when the workers brought in her big sister, 3 yrs.old, she stopped crying. And Bethany held her baby sister in her arms in the rocking chair while little Britnai fell asleep. It was the cutes thang too. Bethany would quietly tell the nursery workers to "hhhusshhh" cause her sister was sleeping ^__^

Meghan - posted on 07/11/2010




I didn't read any of the comments.
The only time I do ignore my son's seperation anxiety is when I have NO choice ie. going to work or him going for a visit with his dad. He is pretty good now, but I am starting school in the fall which means he has to go to daycare so again, in my situation this is something that needs to be done.
I chose not to go out until he is which case I have put him to bed and then go do my own thing while my mom is home. Don't get me wrong, every now and then I run to the bank quick with out him, or grab something from the store, but that takes 15 minutes and he doesn't even notice I have left. It depends on the child and the circumstance.

[deleted account]

I hate to say this but it depends on the child, and several other factors. Once you leave and are gone, does the child calm down or are they anxious the entire time? Is it affecting their mood/behavior at home?

My daughter is 22 months in a couple days and for the most part we haven't had a problem with separation anxiety.....I think it's more coming from me then Roxanne....lmao. Honestly though, the few times Roxanne has been anxious, upset or protested I've just taken a few mins to sit with her and explain that I'll be back shortly. There have been times where I've had to leave and she was upset but I was told after that calmed down within minutes and was her usual happy toddler self! In my specific case with Roxanne, her protesting and anxiety suggests to me that I need to increase the amount of elective time away BUT I wouldn't suggest that in all cases!

Amy - posted on 07/09/2010




My son did this a little bit when he was younger than a year. He'd get upset when I would go to work (I had to as my husband is a stay at home dad). I know it's not elective separation, but I think some of the same parts apply. I try to leave when he's still sleeping, and if I don't then I just explain where I'm going and when I'll be back, give him lots of hugs and kisses and tell him to have a great day.

As for elective separation, when both my husband and I leave our son at a family members so we can have a date night (or what ever) we just let him know where were going and when we'll be back. We also make sure that those watching him have something to help him adjust better (For example bringing over right before supper works because then he'll eat and when we leave he isn't as upset).

The last time my husband and I had a date night, he refused to go to bed and stayed up (very quietly!) until we got there at 11:30 at night.

So in general I think it's good to tell them what your doing and when you'll be back, they might not understand it at first but eventually they will get the idea. I think it's important to take that time away from them, you need "me" time and time for you and your significant other.

[deleted account]

My son is 2 and up until a few months ago I couldn't/wouldn't even leave him w/ my best friend (who he's seen more than any other adult in his lifetime) unless his sisters were w/ him because of how much he would freak out. She is still the only person he's ever stayed w/ w/out his sisters....

Does that answer your question? ;) gqtm......

I should add that his seperation anxiety used to be so bad that when I would try to leave him for only 5 minutes.... he would be restless and waking frequently ALL night long. Totally not worth the lack of sleep I would get. He is making a lot of progress and is slowly coming out of his fear.

Jackie - posted on 07/09/2010




My daughter does not have it bad but my plan always has been adn will continue to be to stick to the plan. Kids are fine as soon as you are out of sight, and I think its very healthy for a child to get used to being away from mom and dad. The one thing I def. agree with is sticking to a consistent schedule as they like to be able to predict what is coming next. But I think catering to them only makes it worse in the long run.

[deleted account]

I agree that it is a phase they go son was 18 mos when he was put in daycare and they daycare prefer that you leave them regardless of their behavior. After a few minutes, no more the 15, he would calm down and get over it and be fine the rest of the time he was there!

To help alleviate this, I would try to maintain a are leaving the same times every week...he goes out every Tu&Th for example...I think it does go faster if they spend more time away, but its not necessary...they do get over it! At the end of my son's time in daycare he was begging to go there! However, he's only asked to go there once since he was pulled out last summer?

[deleted account]

Well it's perfectly normal for kids to develop a little separation anxiety around 18 months. I don't think there's really anything you can do about it other than let them grow out of it.

I leave my daughter in the church nursery three times a week. At the time of her anxiety, that is the only time I would leave her, other than with my husband. She would cry, but the nursery worker would give her animal crackers or start playing a game so she would get interested and stop crying.

She grew out of it. For several months now, she'll walk right into the nursery and say, "bye Mama!" and start playing.

[deleted account]

I don't consider separation anxiety as a tantrum. Those aren't the same thing. Like April, I'm always with my daughter. I've left her with my hubby, but she enjoys being with him. We do play dates, but I stay with her. I have no desire or need to leave her right now.

April - posted on 07/08/2010




i am rarely ever separated from my son. the only thing i can relate to is that when he wakes up from a nap, he is suddenly aware that he's been alone for the last 2 hours. he gets really clingy once i remove him from his crib and won't let me put him down for a good hour. i just hold him for the hour. he's the most important thing...i don't have anything special to do.

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