Separation Anxiety


It may ease separation anxiety later if you at least occasionally employ a sitter during the first six months of your baby's life. She may feel more comfortable with separation if it has always been a familiar aspect of her life.

If your child does suffer from separation anxiety, try to ignore the hysterics and make parting as short and sweet as possible. Say good-bye with a smile and a hug and step outside the door. Then come back five minutes later. Don't go back into the room (or house), just stand outside the door or perhaps look in through a window. Chances are that your baby will already have quieted down and adjusted to her day-care situation. If, over the course of a week or two, she doesn't calm down within 10 minutes or so of your departure, you can always reconsider your decision-either about putting her in day care at all or about using this particular day-care provider.

No matter how fantastic your sitter or day-care provider seems, both you and your baby may suffer from some separation anxiety when it comes time to part.

Especially toward the end of your baby's first year, as her memory begins to develop, separation anxiety may become almost unbearable for both of you. Your 10-month-old will know that as soon as the baby sitter steps in the door or as soon as you walk into the day-care room, you'll soon be going. Your baby may cry almost hysterically when it's time for you to leave. And she may repeat this scenario day after day.

The worst part for your baby (and therefore for you) is the act of separation. Your baby may remember similar situations from the past and therefore anticipate the separation. But in her focus on the immediate moment's anxiety, she may not remember the happy reunion that always followed in the past. She may think you won't ever come back.

After you're gone, however, your baby may forget that you've gone at all. (Focusing on the immediate moment does have its advantages.) Or maybe she calms down enough to remember now that you do always return. Fortunately, as with crying herself to sleep, your baby's periods of tears will become shorter and shorter each day (though they may escalate again if she's sick, tired, or otherwise susceptible to teariness).

As great as your baby's anxiety may seem, your own anxiety may be even worse. You may plague yourself with questions like:

  • Will she survive without you?
  • Will she miss you?
  • Are you being too selfish?
  • Will the separation somehow harm your baby?

Try to be grateful that your baby has someone else who also loves her and wants to care for her. After all, if you have formed a loving relationship with your child and if you continue to bond well with her during your time together, what harm will it do to have other warm, sensitive, loving caregivers bond with her, too? Your baby is perfectly capable of bonding with more than one or two people. (If you nonetheless feel jealous of your baby's caregiver, you may want to re-evaluate your priorities and take some more "time off" before returning to work.)

Take heart. Separating usually gets easier after the first few times. You'll learn that your child did survive and will survive. You'll recognize that she appears relatively unscathed. And you'll be relieved to see that she seems just as happy to see you as ever.

More on: Babies


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Bringing Up Baby © 1997 by Kevin Osborn. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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