How to Handle Toddler Separation Anxiety
For many children, separation anxiety can kick in around 2 or 3 years of age. Here is my best advice for parents:
Count down until the time you are going to leave. For example, “Mommy is going to leave in five minutes”…. “Mommy is going to leave in 1 minute”… “Mommy is going to leave in ten seconds”….. “Ok time for Mommy to leave.”
Always tell your child you are leaving-- never sneak out! It is important that you prepare your child before leaving.
Keep your goodbyes short and be confident. Many times the parent is the one who is more worried about leaving. Your child can sense that. Remain calm and confident. Do not draw out the goodbye and allow time for you and your child to get upset. This makes it harder on both you and your child.
Leave for short periods of time and build up to longer periods of time. Try this routine and only leave the room for 1 minute. Then next time leave for 5 minutes. Gradually increase the length of time you leave your child.
Whatever you do, remain consistent. If you tell your child you are leaving, make sure you follow through. If you are consistent you are creating a routine for your child. Any inconsistencies, such as ending up deciding not to leave because your child is upset, is only going to make the next time you leave harder on your child.
Read more about separation anxiety and other 2-year-old social milestones in an article I was featured in on Care.com. Read the article here: