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. 

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Baby Book Worms

Baby Book Worms

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. I said to my husband (through gritted teeth…thank you hormones) “keep reading! It’s part of the routine!” Because my husband is a very sweet and patient man, he kept reading to our snoring infant. I have no idea if that particular night had an impact on him, but I’m happy to report that my baby boy, now 3 years old, loves to read. More than just a sweet part of a nightly routine Reading has made its way into the nighttime routine in households all over the world. We hear it from many parents — “bath, bottle, book, bed.” While we at Moms on Call love a good routine, we also know that reading is so much more than a step in the bedtime process. By simply reading to your baby, you are: Facilitating their speech and language development. Stimulating their imagination. Introducing them to some of the cornerstones of reading; sentence structure, rhyming and voice inflection. Bonding with them! Tips for reading with little bitties: Let them choose!  Older babies can show their preferences by reaching for or pushing a book away. Eventually pointing to their pick! Have some books small enough for their little hands. Like these! Rotate books, but also, don’t resist them wanting to read the same one over and over! When babies hear the same words and see the same pictures, they begin to process what they are hearing and seeing. They can anticipate what is coming next. When they can turn the page, allow them to decide when to move on. Give them time to focus on something they’re interested in on a particular page. Read with expression! Hearing many new words helps with language development. Let’s talk about reading to toddlers… Sometimes known as storytime sweat sesh. I know I’m not the only mom to have left library story time sweating from chasing a toddler who won’t sit and listen to the story wondering, “Was that even worth it??” The short answer is yes. Our wonderful local librarian (and perhaps my toddler’s first crush) Ms. Mary assured me that consistency helps toddlers learn the rules of both the library and story time. Continue to go and know that bringing snacks can help! Use your librarian to help you locate books on: Potty training Starting school Moving to a big boy or big girl bed Places you may be visiting soon (the beach, the mountains, etc.) Animals your toddler is interested in A few toddler tips: While we don’t want to discourage reading, toddlers are sneaky and know that the golden phrase “one more book” can be used to stall bedtime. Have them choose 2-3 books to read before bed. If no longer napping, have a basket of regular and activity books they can read during quiet time. Keep a few books in the car for them to flip through on the road. Some of our household favorites Pout-Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen (great repetition) MAMA, DADA and BABY, by Jimmy Fallon (again, great repetition) Little Quack’s Bedtime, by Lauren Thompson (good book for conversations about being afraid of the dark) Shake My Sillies Out, by Raffi (get out a little energy before bed!) Moo, Baa, La, La, La by Sandra Boynton (I’ve read this book, no joke, approximately 400 times in 3 years) The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats (one of my absolute favorites) First 100 Board Books, by Roger Pritty (these are awesome for learning words and engaging babies who can point to what they know even if they are not talking yet) Peek-a Who?, by Nina Laden (so sweet when they start to fill in the “ooo” sound) Moms on Call provides simple, sensible parenting resources to sleep, feed, laugh, and love birth through toddlerhood. View all of Moms on Call’s safety product recommendations on our Products We Love and Toddler Toys & Safety pages.  Our Online Video Courses and books are also great resources with safety tips throughout!
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What to Do if Your Toddler is Waking in the Middle of the Night

What to Do if Your Toddler is Waking in the Middle of the Night

When your brain hijacks your sleep Of course, every toddler has a brain. A toddler’s brain is a splendored thing that 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. But, wow, is it easy for that brain to hijack all kinds of experiences…like sleep. And because a toddler is learning and processing at record speed in the first four years of life, it needs a lot of rest. Keep reading for what to do if your toddler is waking in the middle of the night. So, as a toddler’s brain is rebooting, resetting, and getting all the rest it needs, sometimes it wakes up…in the night. And if we provide additional stimulation by, say…engaging them in conversation or turning on the lights….we undermine the skill that the brain needs to rest and reset. The lack of additional stimulation over time helps the brain to lull itself back to restorative sleep. So, if your toddler is waking in the night and you are following all the Moms on Call principles…from safety to that wonderful nighttime “tender time” right before bed, here are some more tips to help in the battle for a continuous night’s sleep.  5 Tips for a Continuous Night’s Sleep Enact a “no engagement” policy, during the night. As long as they are healthy, a toddler does not need to engage in the middle of the night. It is quite stimulating and actually makes it HARDER for them to get back to sleep.  Set the expectations right before bed, so you do not feel like you have to do it in the middle of the night. Before bed, instead of reacting to the toddler’s inconsistent and often exaggerated responses to life, we establish the truth and help them to recognize that truth with clear, confident repetition. So they are not in control of how we all feel about the sleep environment; we are in control of how we present the sleep environment to them. (See the Moms on Call Toddler book chapter entitled “Between awake and asleep” for more great ideas about what to say and do to promote all-night rest) Keep a consistent schedule of events. Toddlers find excellent security when things go in the same order simultaneously. Have a definable schedule so that even if the stuff in life changes from week to week, the schedule remains the same. Do not let Toddlers “sleep in” even if they had a bad night. Start the day on time. Have an opening routine that is the start of each day. It provides a great distraction and indicates that you are starting the day. We cannot make the toddlers participate, but we sure can make life look fun and non-optional.  Remember, the time to address sleep is right before bed with great confidence in what they are capable of doing. Keep a calm, friendly face throughout your parenting experience (as much as is realistic – we know!). Let them know that you are confident and have things under control (even when it feels like you don’t!) Communicate clearly that you believe they are safe and loved and your house sleeps when the moon is out. And in the middle of the night, let them work out the truths you told them before they drifted off to sleep. Check out the Moms on Call Toddler Online Video Course! The course includes simple ways to communicate with your toddler in a way that brings out the best in them! Are you looking for our favorite toddler products? Then, visit our Moms on Call Amazon store for your Toddler Essentials!
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Jennifer and Laura

Parenting with truth and courage

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~Laura & Jennifer
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