By the time the child turns 6-8 months, he begins to differentiate between the primary caregiver and the outside world. He understands that parents are his happy space wherein he feels safe and protected. Being separated from them brings about a fright of not being safe or they not being safe. They begin to understand that they can leave but what they do not understand is that they would come back too!
Separation Anxiety may kick in all of a sudden. It could be triggered by a chemical imbalance in the brain, some traumatic event or a family history of any form of Anxiety. We, although, find our child’s tantrums, cryings and clinginess healthy as it is a natural way of reacting to separation, but it is very important to not let it get severe and deal with it timely to prevent its future negative manifestations.
When the child enters the 6th month, primary caretakers must start desensitising the child to their absence. Here are 5 ways to make this process easier:
Start with leaving the child under controlled environment with familiar people for a brief duration. After a few trials, you would know when exactly does the child ask for you and what kind of an atmosphere would suit him if someday you require to leave him for some time. However, it is mostly seen that a child needs his/her primary caregiver in the early infancy.
This part is a must. We choose to hide explanations from the child assuming that he wouldn’t understand. But here is the truth! They do get it. They just want you to train them to get the logic. Explain why leaving is important and that you would come back soon. You can choose to have a gesture as a ritual that would be a symbol of you returning if you are leaving. Like waving a goodbye!
Keep surroundings familiar:
While you are away, make sure you do not leave the kid at a place where the settings and things are not familiar and he doesn’t see his favourite blankie around. They need a sense of familiarity in the environment that reassures them of a safe space. You can do so by carrying along something familiar like his/her favourite toy. It would help your child keep calm and stay busy.
Leave them with something exciting to look forward to:
When you leave, have some tasks, like games, planned for the kid so that by the time you come back he doesn’t get bothered by your absence and rather be excited about the task all this while. Assuring the kid that they would have a good time even when you are not around can help them feel okay.
Keep your word:
When we are training our kid to deal with separation anxiety, it is very important to build trust by keeping our word. If you have offered the child a playtime as a perk if he finishes his meal then make sure you play with him! Do not trick them as it would make the child believe that the promises are never kept.
Reward/praise the initial adjustment:
While we are training the child, reinforcing the required behaviour becomes integral. This could be done by rewarding the child for every big or small adjustment that he/she has made. This could be a gesture or a token of love that would help you desensitize the child.
Do not delay your departure due to the anxiety creeping in your child:
It is very natural for a child to cry and be uncomfortable while you are leaving. He/she would throw temper tantrums just to prevent separation. But it is very important that you do not delay your departure as, if the child gets successful each time he tries to stop you, it would get registered as a ‘trick’ to keep you close. However, flexibility is a must as the child would, of course, need to be attended by the primary caregiver sometimes.
Separation anxiety is a normal developmental milestone. Hence, you don’t have to worry if your baby is experiencing all of this as it shows that you share a great bond with your baby.