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Separation Anxiety

WHAT IS IT? Separation anxiety is a normal part of development. It usually starts at the age of 8 months. This may cause a baby to become very attached to his mother and even become fearful when dropped off in somebody else’s care. With their newfound knowledge that things and people can disappear they must also learn that the items/people can return as well. They do not simply stop to exist. The fear of losing sight of a parent and/or caregiver may result in anxiety and distress. In short, we need to work together to build trust, for baby to trust that mommy will pick him/her up after work, and trust that he/she will have fun at school without mommy. HOW TO HELP? Advice for parents:

  • Start preparing your child, if you are the mommy, with "separation" games such as peek-a-boo, which reinforce that you'll always return after leaving

  • Short periods where you are away from you child: "Little by little, your child will become more comfortable with spending time away with you, because she knows that you will return when you said that you would and because she had a good time even when you were gone

  • When it's time for day-care drop-off, keep the goodbyes short and sweet, and say when you will be back

  • Do not make the leaving process long. And avoid sneaking out without saying goodbye. It is about building trust.

Advice for teachers:

  • Reassure the parents that their baby/child is in good hands

  • Take the little one with confidence when they are handed over from the mother

  • Provide immediate distraction to the baby/child, colourful toy, something that makes noise

  • Give the child extra attention throughout the day, they need to learn that it is okay not to have mommy, and it is fun at school

  • Do not leave them to ‘cry-it-out’

  • Try to give the child something to play with, read a book with them, speak with them

  • If the child is older, let them make a picture that they can give their parent when they come to pick him/her up from school

  • Explain the day’s routine to the older child and indicate after which activity mommy will be fetching him/her from school

Saying “goodbye” can be difficult for both child and mommy. Be consistent and gentle. Continue to build your relationship of trust with the child and mommy. The child will soon learn that school is fun and start looking forward to going. Anxiety and fear will also start to go away as your trust relationship starts growing.

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