Separation Anxiety

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Separation anxiety is a normal stage of behavioral growth in
toddlers, and it arrives at different ages for all children. Some
toddlers may be fine when saying goodbye to their parents for
months but suddenly become terrified at the thought of Mom or Dad
leaving.

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Age-Level Insights: 0-2

Here are tips to assist you in easing separation anxiety.

  1. Encourage parents to say goodbye and leave the room. Distract
    the child with a special toy or book. Hold the child and sing to
    him if he’s especially upset. Maintain eye contact and speak softly
    to the child. Ask parents to “lay low” if they come back to check
    on their child — seeing Mom or Dad come back and leave again may
    turn on the tear factory once more.
  2. Have parents reassure their child that they’ll return.
    Discourage parents from prolonging goodbyes or sneaking out when
    the child isn’t watching. Be considerate of parents — often they
    struggle with the separation more than their child does.
  3. If necessary, provide a gradual transition by having parents
    stay and play with their child. Parents can talk about how fun it
    is to be with other children.
    Have parents explain that they’ll be leaving, but they’ll return
    shortly. It helps to give a time kids can relate to, such as “Mommy
    will be back after snack time.”

Sondra Saunders leads Prestonwood Baptist Church’s preschool
and children’s ministry with more than 5,200 children in Plano,
Texas. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and
prices are subject to change.

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