Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Separation Anxiety

A month ago, I would have probably bragged that my son never showed any signs of separation anxiety if you asked me.  I would have said something about that being "one of the benefits I've seen of having him in daycare" or, "we just always have him around people," like - somehow - his lack of this "condition" was a result of my stellar parenting.

A month ago, when I told you all that, I would have been being honest; but now? Now, ladies and gentlemen, we have officially boarded the "separation anxiety" train, and it doesn't appear to be slowing down any time soon...

Ever since my trip to Williamsburg a couple of weeks ago, Sam has been incredibly clingy to me.  He always wants me to hold him, cries when I leave the house (or room, for that matter), and the like.  This weekend, for example, we were driving through a neighborhood looking at houses (just for fun - we do that) and Sam had a total FIT when I took two steps away from the car to grab a flier...  has even started affecting his night-time sleep recently - as in, he won't go to sleep without me and he goes CRAZY if he wakes up in the middle of the night and I'm not right there.  It is bad.

I'll admit it... At first I kind-of liked it.  Especially since I had been gone and it was nice to feel "missed."  But, man, that stuff will take a toll on you...  I am exhausted, and I feel terrible because I started back to work this week and have no choice but to leave him for a few hours each morning.  In my mind, I know that he is fine and the separation is healthy for him; but, oh it breaks my heart to leave the house with him crying!

From the little internet research (which we all know is completely reliable) I've done, it seems like all of this is pretty normal.  It is inconvenient, but not surprising, that is also corresponds with my return to work part-time.  But, some things I've read say this stage can last until the child is up to TWO years old.  Oh no you don't.

Have you had experience with separation anxiety?  How did you handle it?  Do you have any tips for overcoming it, or is it best just to ride it out?

I'd love to hear from you!


  1. I always figured as a stay (work) at home mom I would have kids who had severe separation anxiety...and honestly? Not at all. There was a period of two weeks where she cried about staying in the church nursery (around age 2 almost!) and other than that? She waves for me to go and tells me BYE MOM all the time. LOL. So i guess it could be more based on personality than necessarily the setting they are in (daycare, home, etc). Either way, it will pass ;)

  2. Your post is very timely for me. I have a 2.5 year old and a 4.75 year old. My 2.5 year old is over the separation anxiety pretty much. He has his days still, but I can usually trace the behaviour back to a specific issue like he has a cold or he's cutting a molar and he's particularly cranky. Anyone who tells you that it only lasts until 2 though, is lying to you. I have been dropping my almost 5 year old off at summer camp for the last three weeks and every morning is a cry fest. And she was not a clingy child AT ALL until she was about 3. And nothing that my husband and I can think of has happened to her that would suddenly make her clingy. She is totally social and outgoing. She is not a follower generally speaking. She has a wide circle of friends and she loves camp. But dropping her off each day is like extracting myself from a giant claw. Other parents have asked me if it's her first time at camp and how old she is (she's very petite so everyone thinks she's only 3 until she speaks). My method: I give her a big hug and kiss, tell her she's going to have lots of fun and that Daddy will pick her up at the end of the day. Then I engage the help of one of the camp counselors to distract her while I leave. It's tough. But I know this phase will pass too. ;)

  3. My almost-3-year-old had some crazy separation anxiety FOREVER. He cried when I dropped him off at the church nursery (and sometimes cried the whole time I was gone) from 4 months until well past his 2nd birthday. I felt like the worst mom in the world every Sunday, and I'm pretty sure other people agreed because I received lots of advice. I tried anything that felt halfway right for us (no matter what the problem, I'm not willing to do something that totally doesn't jive with my mom instincts), and nothing helped us. I realize that sounds discouraging, but the encouraging side of our story is that it DOES end! I used to comfort myself with the thought that he would probably still go to college and not be living in my basement when he was 40. And then around age 2.5, he was magically ready to be more independent.

    This is a lot of incoherent rambling, but I guess my best tips are these: Don't sweat it too much. Trust yourself, and ignore the advice that doesn't feel right (you might not know how to fix the problem, but you can probably sense what's not going to work for Sam). Don't let yourself resent him if this phase lasts a long time -- someday he will be over it, and it will feel like a distant memory soon after that! And try not to feel like this is your fault... unless you want to take credit for being so awesome that your baby doesn't want anyone else's company ;)

  4. My son is 11 months old and has had severe separation anxiety since about 6 months old. I worked in the school system so I was working full time when it started and thought that might have something to do with it. Then I was out for the summer and was with him everyday. Nothing improved. I think it has something to do with their personality. He cries every Sunday in the nursery for 3 hours. Every time I go to pick him up he is with the director of the preschool (never in his class). He cries every night when I leave his room. He sleeps with his head pressed up against the rails of this crib toward the door and his hands through the rails as he falls asleep reaching for me. So pitiful :( I can't even take a shower without him screaming the whole time and trying to climb in the shower with me. I also don't think it has anything to do with exposure because we are around other people ALL the time. I have had mixed emotions through the whole thing and have really thought through my response and how to handle the situation, in my actions and my thoughts (of feeling guilty, inadequate, etc.) But here is my final thought process: is it is developmentally appropriate. Some kids go through it for shorter periods of time while for other kids it may last for months. This is just the beginning of basing my identity on my child's behavior. I am a people pleaser and when he wouldn't go to people who wanted to hold him I was initially embarrassed. I wanted him to be the cute social butterfly everyone talked about. But this is who my child is and I love him and adapt to his needs. It is also exhausting as you mentioned. Sometimes he just has to cry for a minute so I can put him down and get the laundry or wash the dishes. I try to be reasonable and respectful to him about how long he cries but life also has to go on and there are somethings I need to get done. If it can wait until daddy gets home I will wait. My moto has been "It too shall pass" and until then I will enjoy it. There will be a day when he is embarrassed by me and won't want to be within a mile from me. I will think back to these moments when he couldn't live a second without me :) I steal as many hugs and kisses from him as I can while I have him in my arms and whisper "I love you" in his ears constantly. I think of that country song "You're gonna miss this, you're gonna want this back". That will be true one day and I don't want to miss any opportunities my son and I have now. This thought process will hopefully endure through many stages throughout his life. This is just the beginning of the world of a mommy (unknowns, feeling inadequate, wondering what others are thinking, questioning our decisions, trying to be perfect). So if I can adjust the way I respond and think now hopefully things will be a little more enjoyable and less stressful. But on a practical note - when I leave him I always say the same thing "Bye Mason! I love you and I'll be back" Then I give him a kiss and walk away. I never leave without saying good-bye so he won't think I will ever just leave him without him knowing. I feel like that will cause him more stress to think my mommy might leave me any second without me knowing. You are his mother and you love him and want the best for him - be confident in that!

  5. It's a tough phase huh?! I just started back to work part time and I am leaving my 15 month old with a new sitter. Although she's great, he screams bloody murder the second I hand him off to her.
    A tip that I read from the 'book of Google' that I thought was interesting, was to always make sure you say goodbye. Don't make it drawn out and emotional of course, but always make it a point to say goodbye, give a kiss, and walk out the door. This way the baby knows that you didn't disappear into thin air and you stand by your word when you say you will be back.
    Hope this helps!

  6. Boy, I have to agree, and sympathize, with the other commenters. My son turned a year a couple weeks ago and we've been through some phases of separation anxiety already. I remember about a week when he was 6 or 7 months old that he wouldn't let me put him down without screaming and crying inconsolably. It was absolutely horrible. He's been a little needier since birth though, so it wasn't new, just worse. Once he became mobile (crawling and now walking) he seemed to do better. He's been in daycare since I went back to work when he was 14 weeks old. When I leave him at daycare, he can toddle over to the toys or the other babies and play. One thing I've noticed is even if he cries when I leave, he is fine within minutes (usually seconds really). I wonder if yours is the same? I agree with @Amy Jo-don't make a big deal out of leaving, don't sneak out, just say goodbye with a hug and a kiss and tell him you will see him at the end of the day (or when you get out of the bathroom, lol). I think it's good at this age to set the expectation as well. Let him know what's happening. They understand so much more than they can communicate right now. Good luck and I hope this phase passes quickly for you!

  7. I work with toddlers at school and see a lot of this separation anxiety. We've had great success developing a goodbye routine for each kiddo ie: read a book, draw a picture, say good morning to the fish in our tank. Something that the kid enjoys, that the parent can do with them everyday, then a big hug and say goodbye. Children are so routine oriented at this stage and crave the predictability of knowing what is coming next. The good news: they usually stop crying within a few moments of saying goodbye. It's just a matter of figuring out a routine that works for you.

  8. I feel your pain! i also saw the "up to 2 years" on my 'please help me and tell me this is ok' google search and FREAKED! my little girl is 9 months and we've been struggling through this stage the past couple weeks (and of course, i'm going to start taking her to a child care center in a few weeks. thus far, someone has been coming to the house while i go to work for a few hours). i am definately traumatized. I just keep telling myself that it's a phase and am trying to perfect the "dump and run" per the advice of many others. I'm comforted that I know she's not screaming bloody murder the entire time; every time i come back home, she's having fun. and the babysitter says she stops about 10 minutes after i leave (though that seems like a very long time). i've been told to make the goodbye short and that it's much harder on the mom than the baby. i have probably cried just as much if not more than little miss. :(

    several months ago she would go nuts if anyone but me put her to sleep but was fine at other times when i would leave (and i thought, 'at least she's ok when i leave for the day!' haha). she would scream crazy bloody murder for my hubby to the point that i had to switch my work schedule to be home to put her to sleep (i was trying to work evenings to minimize child care and time away). as i soon as i would hold her, she'd stop crying and start smiling at daddy. it is incredibly stressful, i feel your pain. you are definately not alone! and i do hope it passes soon for the both of us!

    by the way, i'm mcyorno's sister and absolutely obsessed w/ your blog. i feel like our little ones are very similiar . i actually had a dream w/ you in it the other night in your new glasses -- and now i sound like a creeper!

  9. Hi E,
    I found your website through my sister--I think you went to high school with her. Anyhow, I have been intrigued by your blog and love your sense of humor! You are too cute! And I absolutely adore your midweek confessions, which I started doing on my own blog (findingsecurityinhim.blogspot.com--check it out if you have a sec) and linking up to yours when I can. So, separation anxiety is tough to deal with, I know. My kids are older now (7&9), and to be honest with you, I hardly remember some of the stuff that seemed so stressful when they were little (like separation anxiety). So my advice? Do the best you can, be firm and consistent, and enjoy your little one, since, as they say "this too shall pass". Good luck! Heather

  10. OH boy! Sorry about the separation anxiety at your house, but I have to say it is nice to ready that you (and lots of other commenters) are going through it. My little guy is showing some seperation anxiety lately, too It is both heartbreaking and frustrating as a Mom! The worst part for me is the sleeping, Caleb used to sleep through the night or just get himself back to sleep if he did wake up. But now...well it is all out screamfest until someone is in there to rock him back to sleep (at least it is not just me that can sooth him!) If this lasts until 2 (or longer) it will be a long time before he is a big brother - haha!

    This too shall pass...right?!?

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