Something that just came up in a GRASP moms’ group recently was the issue of separation anxiety with toddlers. It is important to always say goodbye when separating to connect words with actions and establish a pattern. This helps set your child’s expectations and provide a greater sense of security. Knowing what will happen next, even if it’s not something your child likes, maintains your little one's sense of trust and consistency. As we all know, our anxiety actually increases when there is no sense of what is coming. When you suddenly disappear, your toddler feels anxiety that will likely make him/her clingier when you are around, since there is no “word” or routine associated with your departure. So although it might seem easy at first to “sneak” out, in the long run it will create increased clinginess in your little one and difficulty when leaving or staying.
- Use the word “goodbye.”
- Keep it short.
- Give a concrete cue/reminder that you will return—when the clock says 3:00 or after circle time at daycare.
- Keep the routine the same.
- Leave a reminder of you to help your child transition—a sticker on his/her shirt or your photo.
- Play separation games like peek-a-boo and hide and seek to demonstrate leaving and returning.
- Again, short but consistent!