How To Deal With Separation Anxiety In Toddlers
Infants require body warmth, love and affection in their early months and it is this ‘body closeness’ that they get attached to. The concept of separation anxiety stems from this body contact that they are used to. Once an infant grows into a toddler and starts walking about, he/she tends to explore his/her surroundings. But, this is done as long as the parent or care-giver is in sight.
The moment the parent or care-giver is out of sight, the toddler starts whining or crying. This ‘separation’ and the related ‘anxiety’ that it causes is known as ‘separation anxiety’. Loss of body contact or familiar voices creates a feeling of panic in the child and thus leads to separation anxiety. Toddlers suffering from separation anxiety tend to cling to their parents and care-givers, thereby making it difficult for the adults to do their chores.
Separation anxiety can start at any time after age one, though it peaks when a child is 1.5 – 2 years old. At this age, the child becomes aware of his/her surroundings and can clearly differentiate the parents and care-giver from others. It is imperative that parents try to reduce the levels of separation anxiety once the child reaches 2 years as after that it becomes even more difficult to remove these separation fears.
A method often used by parents is enrolment in play schools or mom-toddler groups whereby the child is introduced to other children and adults (in the form of other parents or teachers). The parents play a minimal role in these groups and allow the child to mingle freely with others. The parents remain in the background and enter the picture only when necessary.
A method that parents can use at home is to start an activity with the child in one room and, after a few minutes, leave the room. In the first few instances, the child will start crying immediately, after which he/she will come looking for the parent. After a few days, the child may not cry but will still come looking for the parent. After a few weeks, the child will learn that the parent is around and that he/she can continue his/her activity on his/her own.