Separation anxiety in children is a common occurrence, as most children don’t like to be away from their parents for too long at a time. It tends to get better as children get older, when they begin to understand that you’re coming back and you can explain to them where you are going or what you need to do. Separation anxiety varies wildly from child to child, and is based on home life, personality traits, lifestyle factors, age, and more.

Separation anxiety tends to affect children from infancy to their pre-school years. Changes in routine, meeting new people, and going to a new school or making the adjustment from daycare to pre-school can all trigger some form of separation anxiety in children.

Separation anxiety can go both ways from child to parent, as parents, especially new parents or breastfeeding parents, often feel concerned or worried about leaving their children in someone else’s care or needing to attend to something their kids simply can’t join them for. It’s completely normal, and typically short lived, but there are ways that you can help build resilience and confidence in your child and prepare them for some time away as it is needed.


Surviving Separation Anxiety


 With a few tweaks to your daily routine, you can help your child ease their separation anxiety and help them cope with your absence.

Create quick, good-bye rituals that don’t drag out for long periods of time. Keeping your goodbyes short, to a big hug, a kiss and an “I love you buddy, have a good day, I’ll be back later!” helps to keep your child from dwelling on their anxiety and helps build up their resilience in these situations. Give your child your full attention before you leave, and then say goodbye quickly despite their pleas to get you to stay. (We know this can be hard, but it will be okay!)

Be consistent. This is a big one. It’s no secret that kids thrive on routine and consistency- since adults do as well. Keeping your drop off and pick up times consistent and regular as much as possible, will help ease your child’s anxiety. When they know that you will be back when you say you will, it helps to build up that trust your child has for you, and fosters a sense of independence.

Don’t make promises unless you’re sure you can keep them. Sticking to your promise to return will go a long way in easing your child’s separation anxiety. Leaving on lunch to visit your child for example, although well intended, can create fear and abandonment insecurities in your child, and reignite separation anxiety, causing it to start all over again. Leaving a second or third time may cause nuclear meltdowns in your child and those are best avoided.

Practice being apart from your child. An easy way to do this is let grandma, grandpa, or a trusted close family member or friend hang out with your child for a bit (even just an hour or two) to get them used to your absence. Schedule playdates with other children, and let them experience the world without you to build their confidence and independence in themselves. Practice and roleplay goodbye rituals, and keep a routine and your child will thrive and survive separation anxiety (and so will you!)

For more information and resources on how to handle your child’s separation anxiety, head on over to Healthy Children to read more!