Written by Elizabeth Pantley
From the time that babies become aware of the world around them, they begin to form important relationships with the people in their lives. They quickly learn that certain people are vital to their happiness and their survival. Babies don't have the ability to understand how the world works, so they don't know what makes these people appear or disappear. When their special people are out of sight, they have no way of knowing if their loved ones are gone forever, and they express their concern: usually by crying and clinging. Here are a few tips to help your baby learn to adapt to separations without the anxiety.
- Practice with quick, daily separations. Over the course of your usual days together, take opportunities to expose your baby to a few brief, safe, visual separations. This process is particularly useful for the little super-glue babies who need you to be within arms’ reach at all times. Begin by getting your baby started with playing with an interesting toy or another person. When your little one is happily engaged, walk slowly and go briefly into another room. Whistle, sing, hum or talk so she knows you're still there, even though she can't see you. Carry out these brief separations off and on throughout the day in a variety of different situations.
- Avoid the in-arms transfer. It's common to hand over a baby from one caregiver to another. The problem with this is that your little one is leaving the safety and warmth of your arms and physically whisked away to another less-familiar person. This physical parting is the ultimate separation-anxiety producer. To reduce the physical anxiety-producing sensations of an arms-to-arms transfer, make the change with your baby in a neutral place, such as playing on the floor or sitting in a swing, high chair or baby seat. Have the caregiver sit next to your baby and engage your child's attention as you say a quick, happy good-bye. As soon as you are gone is the best time for the caregiver to pick up your child. The advantage is that your baby's caregiver will be put in the position of rescuer and can help them with their relationship.
- Embrace separation anxiety as a positive sign. It's perfectly okay - even wonderful - for your child to be so attached to you and for her to desire your constant companionship. Congratulations: It's evidence that the bond you've worked so hard to create is holding. So politely ignore those who tell you otherwise.
When you relax your expectations of independence, you can actually help your baby be more relaxed and less anxious about those times of separation.
Elizabeth is the author of The No-Cry Solution series of parenting books. This article is an excerpt From The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution: Gentle Ways to Make Good-Bye Easy from Six Months to Six Years by Elizabeth Pantley (McGraw-Hill, 2010). For more information, visit pantley.com/elizabeth/.