How to Deal with Separation Anxiety
You’ve been planning this evening for months. The reservations were made weeks ago, an experienced sitter is due to arrive in 15 minutes and your outfit looks fabulous. Yes, you’ve put together quite an adults-only outing, left nothing to chance. Well, almost nothing. In the midst of last-minute primping, a party-crashing thought enters your mind: What if my baby cries the entire time I’m gone and thinks I’ve abandoned him?
Suddenly a night out doesn’t seem so fun. You may even consider scrapping your plans altogether. But don’t cancel those reservations just yet. Keep in mind that these fearful feelings are common among new parents – especially those who are leaving their little ones with someone else for the first time. And, yes, chances are good that your baby will experience some form of separation anxiety, whether it’s in the form of crying or a tantrum. It’s only natural for a baby to get upset at being separated from the person to whom he’s closest and most dependent.
However, leaving your child in the care of others and establishing a comforting goodbye routine can teach him many valuable lessons, such as accepting and responding to other trusted adults. Best of all, your baby will soon make the important connection that when you leave, you always return. This is particularly helpful if and when you choose to put your child in daycare.
Making Transitions Easier
How babies react to being separated from a parent varies dramatically from child to child. Some will wail and throw a fit while others may take to their new sitter immediately. Regardless of your child’s temperament, it’s a good idea to establish a short, upbeat goodbye routine and stick with it. Here’s how:
Always say goodbye. Though it’s tempting to avoid a teary tirade by sneaking out the back door, this will only upset your child and undermine his sense of security. Instead, kiss and hug your baby before you leave while telling him you’ll be back soon. Even though your baby won’t comprehend these words, he will understand your tone and mood – so be positive and cheerful. And don’t cry if your baby starts crying. If you must, shed some tears after you’ve left the house, where your baby can’t see you.
Keep it short. Lengthy goodbyes will only prolong a potentially unnerving moment and give your baby more time to have a meltdown. Say your goodbyes, give your little one a kiss and a hug and head for the door. Once you’ve left, resist the urge to make repeated trips into the house, even if you can hear your baby crying. This only makes things harder on your baby – and the caregiver.
Have a happy reunion. If your baby’s awake when you return, greet him with enthusiasm and affection. You may even consider rewarding your baby for good behavior by giving him a small token, such as a new rattle or plush toy. Refrain from making guilt-ridden statements, such as “I’m so sorry I left you.” This will only spoil the reunion and lead your child to believe that temporary separation is a bad thing. Just soak up your baby’s love and thank the sitter.