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How to Solve Separation Anxiety in Toddlers, Babies, and Children

How to Solve Separation Anxiety in Toddlers, Babies, and Children

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Yes, you’ve heard of the separation anxiety around 8-12 months where they scream and cry because they think you’re never coming back. But did you know separation anxiety in toddlers and older children is a thing?

If you have a 2-3-year-old or even older, I bet you do and may even be going through it right now. Well, I’m here to help you solve and walk you through how to end separation anxiety whether you have a toddler, baby, or older child for good.


Separation Anxiety in Toddlers, Babies, and Children

A mother can do everything she can to make sure her child gets the social experiences needed to avoid separation anxiety in toddlers. When they’re young, we want them attached in a sense.

We want those extra cuddles and time by ourselves with them. After all, children are only young once. As a stay at home mom, it can get even more complicated.

You’re with your child almost 24/7. They get used to being with you all the time. Now those few times you leave them can become a stressful event.

So is it wrong to want that extra cuddle time on the couch? No, so snuggle up all you want… to an extent.

Here are the ways to help you get through separation anxiety.


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Make Time For Yourself

I talk to so many moms that tell me they don’t know the last time they were out with their friends.

I also hear that their husbands can’t watch the kids, so they don’t get much time off. Both of those excuses are just that, excuses.

It is very important as a mom to get out with your friends or even go shopping once in a while by yourself without the kids. If your husband can’t watch the kids, it’s even more reason to have him watch them.

Odds are he doesn’t feel comfortable watching them alone because he’s either never or rarely does it.

It’s the same fear you have when you take your first newborn home for the first time. It’s scary! At the same time, your sanity is just as important.

If that doesn’t work for you right now, most children have a bedtime around 8. Even if your husband has difficulty watching multiple children at once, head out after bedtime!

The more you are away from them with your husband or even a baby sitter or another family member watching, the easier it begins to be on your child.


Get Out of the House

Remember when I said you can get all those cuddles? You can, but just make sure you’re getting out a few times a week. It is crucial for toddlers to have social experiences with other children around the same age.

Look around the community and see what options are available locally to keep your child socialize with others. Whether you work full-time or are stay at home, there are opportunities during the week, at night, and on weekends in every city.

My daughter is naturally shy, so being around other children has forced her to communicate and play with others. This also forces her to step away from me and converse with others while I am watching at a safe distance.

Yes, she knows I am there, but she is not tied to my hip. Here are some great ways to keep your child engaged in my First 5 Steps as a Stay at Home Mom article.



Sign Them Up For Playgroups, Preschools, or Camps

I know what you’re thinking. If you’re a stay at home mom, you’re supposed to be watching the kids. Honestly, this one can be the make or break it when it comes to separation anxiety in toddlers.

Check your local area to see if a trustworthy place offers any type of playgroup or camp once or twice a week. My daughter currently attends a 2 and a half hour playgroup 1 day a week at our local recreation center.

When she first started in the playgroup, she was just getting into her next separation anxiety phase. Perfect timing, right? She actually spent the entire first day next to the door and refused to take part in any of the activities.

It was then she actually learned how to do the “Leah eye,” an evil look she learned to give to everyone when she didn’t want to do something or didn’t want them to come near her.


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Talk With Them

Separation anxiety in toddlers can stem from the same reasons our own anxiety happens – fear of the unknown. Toddlers like routine and they like to know what will happen next. I talk positively about her playgroup all the time.

I tell her how much fun she will have and what she will do each class with the teachers and other children. I do the same when we are going to the store or somewhere out of the ordinary.

When Leah didn’t do well at playgroup that first week, we came home and talked about how sad it made me feel.

We continue to have that talk every week. Toddlers are starting to understand emotions and important to play into what they know and can understand.

I talk more about the importance of talking to toddlers and getting down to their level in my How to Stop Hitting in Toddlers article.

Every time I drop my daughter off at playgroup, I tell her “Mommy will come back and see Leah.” Leah will repeat the same phrase back to me. I also tell her that if she is good at playgroup, we will go home and watch Muppet Babies (her current favorite on Disney Junior).

This repetition every playgroup has taught her what to expect. She is starting to enjoy her time away from me more and more.


D.W.’s Guide to Preschool

We also recently got the book “D.W.’s Guide to Preschool” (also known as D.W. Goes to Preschool). It walks through D.W.’s typical day at preschool.

It includes all the fun they have down to saying bye to their parents and ending the day with their parents coming back to pick them up.

We changed the words “preschool” to “playgroup” and changed the teacher’s name in the book to her teacher.

Leah is now excited to go to playgroup, just like D.W. did! I highly recommend this book to ease a child into a playgroup or preschool like situation.



Stick With It

This is a hard phase to get through no matter what age they are! No one wants to leave their child screaming and crying for mommy or hear they were moping the whole time.

When I heard Leah was moping even after I left, I almost went to pick her up never to return her to playgroup again. I received the advice from friends to stick it out and I did. It tore me apart.

Turns out by the time I got back, she had moved a few feet from the door closer to the other children. Not amazing, but definitely a step forward. Each and every week she went back, she would do more and more.

This past week all three of her teachers completely raved about her. They told me how she was dancing with the other kids and socializing. We also went over to my mom’s house for a graduation party.

Leah actually told us to leave and she wanted to stay with grandma. We obliged and she had a sleepover at grandmas. She was fine the entire time! It may seem like the phase will never end, but just don’t give in.

Stick with it 100% of the time. Never give in. The phase will pass and you will be proud as ever of the child they are becoming.

Sharing is caring!

Grandi | My Aggrandized Life

Sunday 10th of June 2018

These are such great tips. Separation anxiety is so difficult. My kids went with me to school because I was the Director of a Montessori school, so I was lucky. They still experienced it a little bit on some days. I did have a few kids who would cling to their mom's leg and scream for her not to leave. All to often those moms left in tears and it broke my heart. I would step in to help by taking the child and holding him/her and reassuring them that mom would be back. Once mom left and the child was in class, I would call the mom to let her know her child was okay and happy. Sometimes I sent photos too. The worst thing for moms with kids at this age is to think all day about their little ones screaming and crying. It helped a lot when I sent the photos and made that simple phone call. Separation anxiety can sometimes be harder on moms than kids.


Sunday 10th of June 2018

That's a good point and so true Grandi. I know when my daughter was in daycare before I stayed at home, I was a wreck. She was happy and playing and I couldn't stand being apart from her!

Mila Keller

Friday 8th of June 2018

As a mom of two young ones, I especially agree with the point of making time for just yourself.


Friday 8th of June 2018

My daughter's only 1 and can't talk too much, but I have been doing my best to get her out to parks. She's more of an observer at this point, but I think any interaction will help her in the long run!


Friday 8th of June 2018

It sounds like you're on the right track!

Joanna Stephens

Thursday 7th of June 2018

I'm really bad about leaving the house. I know my daughter would love playing with other kids her age, but the time & planning always seems to get in the way. I also need to do more things by myself...definitely the mom who always makes excuses for why I never get alone time. These are great tips and that would be beneficial to both mom as well as a toddler.


Thursday 7th of June 2018

Start with one of these tips and grow off of them Joanna! I will actually plan ahead for the week when I will do something and when I will have lazy days with my daughter (we all need them).


Thursday 7th of June 2018

Great advice Samantha! It's so heartbreaking to have to leave your toddler when she's crying for you. I went through this when my daughter started at daycare. It's so true that you have to stick with it. We talked about it a lot before she started too. We read a great book called The Kissing Hand, which I would recommend to other moms!


Thursday 7th of June 2018

Thank you Samara! I love hearing about other books that can help. It's amazing what they understand and learn from reading.