From around 4-7 months babies become aware of object permanence. This means they recognise that things can be gone from their sight but still exist and return, Playing peek-a-boo is great way to demonstrate and practice this.
You might spot signs of separation anxiety at a parent and baby group or when leaving your little one with someone else. Or it may show up at bedtime for a little one who was previously okay to be put down and left alone.
Now lets take a look at some simple tips you can adopt to ease any separation anxiety now or if it crops up in the future…
- Practice! – If you are at a group with other parents and babies, encourage your little one to explore and venture away from you while you remain in one place. They might keep checking to see that you’re still there and when they want to return to you, you’re right there! This helps build trust and confidence in your little one. Similarly, you could practice dropping your child off say at Grandma’s for a few hours to give them a chance to get used to you going and coming back again. This is a great one for stay at home parents to practice ahead of a child starting school if they’re not used to being away from you.
- Swift transitions – When you part from your child, don’t linger. Say your goodbyes and off you go. I know, first hand how hard this is. It’s like you want to stay until you get that happy goodbye but it’s probably not coming and it’s easier on the little one if you get on with it and go. You might feel terrible but they bounce back much faster!
- Goodbye Ritual – A consistent goodbye ritual will act as a good trigger for your little one that it’s time to part company and as they get used to you returning as well, this ritual will be a positive cue. When you do your parting ritual, be fully present with your little one.
- Engage time – Make some special time for extra engagement with your baby or child if they’re feeling a bit anxious. This focussed attention entirely between you and them helps to reinforce a secure attachment and a healthy bond.
- Tiredness makes it worse! – We’re all more fractious and less rational when we’re tired and more so for babies and young children. It will be easier to ease separation anxiety in a little one who is not desperately over tired so try to keep him well-rested.
- Be consistent – Especially when responding to night wakings or bedtime challenges. If your response is wavering or inconsistent, this can cause insecurity. A consistent response from you encourages a secure attachment because your child knows what to expect and it helps your little one to know that you are there, whether in sight or not you are close by and always return.