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Does it upset your toddlers when you leave for work, run errands, or leave them in their room for the night? Now that "out of sight, out of mind" does not exist anymore for them, your child may cling to you more than ever. The moment you step out of the door, you know exactly what happens next. (Spoiler: It involves tears.)
Experiencing separation anxiety is normal, especially in children from 10 to 18 months when they fear being away from their significant caregiver. But it's not all bad—it's a sign of a strong bond between you and your child. Dealing with tantrums can be stressful, though.
Keep in mind that all you need is some time and preparation to help you calm your clingy tot. Start with the following tips:
1. Say a quick goodbye.
Prolonging your goodbyes and returning for more hugs might leave your child worrying even more. Give a quick kiss and hug, and assure him that you will be back. Do not panic and give in when your child starts to throw tantrums. The key is to be consistent so they can learn to gradually adjust to the setup.
2. Plan activities for your child.
Keep your child preoccupied by making sure you leave them with activities they find interesting. Prepare paint, paper, and brushes if they love painting or their favorite blocks. "Sometimes your suggestions may not always work, so be sensitive enough not to force the child," says Ma. Blesila De Guzman-de Asis, MA, RPsy at MLAC Institute for Psychosocial Services, Inc.
3. Give him time to adjust to his caregiver.
Your child may need a few hours (or even a few days) to become comfortable around a new yaya or teacher. Let them interact with you around, but don't push it if your child doesn't seem ready. Brief the caregiver on your child's routine and favorites so the caregiver knows how to comfort your child when you’re not around.
"If your child goes to school, mirror positive behavior and show your child that the teacher is his second parent in school," suggests Ananea Moran-Arcega, a teacher at the Ateneo de Manila Grade School. "And if your child refuses to attend class, consider having another adult bring him to school. Kids usually act up more when the significant adult is present."
4. Have a solid bedtime routine.
Kids love being in control, and they find comfort in knowing what will happen next. Give your tot a relaxing bath to soothe and calm them. Use gentle products like Baby Dove, which can help prepare them for a good night’s sleep.
If you're going out for the evening, sneaking out isn't the best idea. Make it clear that the caregiver will watch over them while you're out. This should keep them from panicking when they suddenly wake up in the middle of the night to find you gone. Have their security blanket or favorite toy ready to give them comfort.
5. Relax, mom.
Your child can sense if you're also anxious about leaving. Keep calm and talk in a kind but firm manner while explaining your schedule. Smile and nod, too, when your child tries to tell you exactly how he or she feels. Children find comfort when adults acknowledge their feelings. "If the child can tell you their feelings, they will be open to listening to your suggestions," de Asis adds.
Every child has his or her own personality and thus reacts differently to various ways of dealing with separation anxiety. Finding the right method for you and your child may involve a lot of trial and error. You can read books or consult experts but ultimately, you should trust your own instincts—after all, you know your child best.
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This article was created by Summit StoryLabs in partnership with Baby Dove.