Separation Anxiety 101: What Every Parent Should Know

Does your child struggle with separation anxiety? Learn about the normal developmental stage of separation awareness and how you can help your little one adjust. Get helpful tips from the moms at Moms on Call, experts in parenting advice.

There are many developmental stages children go through that often get labeled negatively. At Moms on Call, we are adamant about positively shifting this verbiage because growth and development are normal! What we call “separation awareness” is one of these stages. It’s more commonly known as “separation anxiety,” but it’s really not anxiety at all and is completely normal!

We often speak about parenting out of truth (not fear!) with our little ones, setting them up for future success. As we gear up towards the school year (and an uncertain one at that), go back to work, and the discussion of entrusting our little ones with others as we navigate this new normal, our little ones may be having lots of feelings after spending LOADS of time with us. So, let’s discuss how we can make this a positive transition for you and the baby. 

Let’s start with the facts!

When can you expect to see separation anxiety? 

It typically starts around 8-24 months of age, but it can happen as early as 5-7 months. 

What causes this development? 

Object Permanence. Now that your child can comprehend that objects continue to exist although they can no longer be seen or heard, they are starting to realize that you exist apart from them.

What is the positive of this transition? 

Your child is well attached to you and loves you lots! (YAY)

Your child is ready for one of life’s most necessary lessons; adjusting to change. 

Truth over fear

For the nursery, daycare, or babysitting situation: 

  • Your fear will say they feel abandoned and will never be able to be left in the care of anyone but you. 
  • Your truth says your child cannot feel abandoned because they are not. They can go to nursery, daycare, or babysitters, and they will figure out how this works. 

Sleeping in a new environment:

  • Your fear will say they are anxious and cannot sleep in this new place. 
  • Your truth says the change in the sleep location will be a new experience. Initially, there may be a bit of a transition, but they can learn to sleep in a new environment and will do great with time and consistency! 

Confidence is contagious 

  • Believe this and say it loud and often! 
  • Let truth penetrate your heart first, and then set your child up for future success as you parent them out of truth.

What can you do to help with separation anxiety?

Play Peek-A-Boo 

  • Playing this age-old game teaches your child that you are always coming back after disappearing. 
  • Start by covering your face with your hands, then slowly transition to hiding behind a corner, popping your head around with a big smile and laugh. Those baby giggles will get you. Make it fun, and keep it happy! 

Sing songs and talk with your child from other rooms in your home. 

  • When they can hear you without seeing you, it creates an auditory presence. This is a great transition for them to begin feeling comfortable even when they can’t see you. 

Routine is key! 

  • Following a consistent routine with drop-offs creates familiarity, giving little ones great security. 
  • Following a consistent routine when leaving them in someone else’s care will help them learn to be confident when they are away from you. 

MOC’s quick guide to “Goodbye.”

  • Say a brief but heartfelt goodbye. (Sneaking out tends to backfire.)
  • Put your Confident Face on, and do not draw out the goodbye. 
  • Give them a brief display of love and affection, and walk away. 

The tears are likely to come, but the truth is, you will return shortly, and they will be just fine. 

Follow along with Moms on Call for many more techniques we share and teach in our books and online courses. This is just a glimpse of the support and encouragement we offer so you can thrive through parenting, not just survive. 

Read More

Let’s talk about reading to our little ones! Written by Moms on Call Consultant Sydney Smith, BSN, RN I remember holding my little one around 8 weeks old. It was 8:00 pm, he’s literally snoring in my arms...
Read more about Baby Book Worms

Of course, every toddler has a brain. A toddler’s brain ironically can “have a mind of its own.” But, we rarely discuss how to care for this beautiful, mysterious organ that controls our functions and behaviors. B...
Read more about What to Do if Your Toddler is Waking in the Middle of the Night

We've got a FREE resource ready to send you that is age-appropriate for where your child is right now.

Jennifer and Laura

Parenting with truth and courage

Embrace the journey. You’re not in this alone.
Become a MOC Family, and we'll be your voice of hope as you parent out of truth, grace, and love.

~Laura & Jennifer
co-founders