How to Tackle Separation Anxiety
There’s this weird thing that happens when your little one turns 8 or 9 months…
Know what it is?
Your kiddo was once sleeping soundly, and now they can’t bear the thought of being in a room by themselves, dropped off, or even held by someone one. Whaaat is going on?
This my friend, is what we call Separation Anxiety.
And guess what? It's a good thing! Separation anxiety is a developmental milestone that shows up because they’re grasping the idea of a little something called Object Permanence. That’s when they now realize that just because something isn’t within view anymore, doesn’t mean it disappears. So they realize that even though you’re not in the room anymore, you are somewhere - and they want you back! Your child might develop this earlier, like 5 or 6 months old. Then it often shows up again around the 18+ months stage.
Why It’s Challenging
Unfortunately it’s not all roses during this time - for your baby, or for you. Your kiddo is going through a tough time as they can’t bear the thought of being away from you, even for a little bit! New developments are exciting because your little baby is learning all these new things and exploring the world around them. But any kind of growth can go through a tough stage. And as you’re experiencing, it can also affect their sleep! Your baby’s brain is learning, and they just can’t shut it off - even to go to sleep.
What makes this development tough is that it also plays with their emotions. They know you’re somewhere and they need you near! They also develop a sense of Stranger Danger when they’re with someone that isn’t their parent - or their preferred parent at the time. But this is a gentle reminder to make space for their emotions. Suddenly the way they knew things to be, isn’t that way anymore. And that can be scary for a young mind! There’s a lot going on in there, and while it may seem like overreacting, it’s the most important thing to them at the time. It also helps to remind yourself that this stage is temporary, and it’s actually a sign of healthy attachment.
Sometimes it feels like a whole heck of a lot if you’re the preferred parent. It can also feel crummy when you’re not the preferred parent. No one likes to be rejected by their own kid, but it’s also hard when you’re the one who can’t leave the room, drop them off, or put them down without there being tears accompanied with your exit. It’s exhausting, it’s frustrating, and maybe even a little bit suffocating.
I hear you on this. Perhaps it’s important to make space for your own emotions as well.
The Good News
I want you to feel all the things you’re feeling, because they’re warranted. Being a parent is full of incredible, wonderfully tough days. But it’s important that I equip you with empowering & practical ways that you can ease the situation for everyone. The confidence that comes with sleep training is something that’s not talked about enough! Sure, getting your sleep again is straight up life changing (and you know I looove talking about that!), but the strength and trust you gain in yourself when you know how to handle situations that come up is completely priceless. So let me share with you my pearls of wisdom.
If they’re already an independent sleeper, nurture that! Keep encouraging those patterns, but use the Leave and Check method if they’re having a tough time. Getting into the habit of helping them to sleep means you’ll be doing that continuously whether it’s for bedtime, naps, or night wakings. Ooph, it’s exhausting for both of you!
Routine is crucial. In this case, have a concise routine as the short transition helps lessen the anxiety. Plus routine triggers to the brain that it’s sleepy time, which will work in your favour.
Practice independent play or quiet time somewhere you aren’t. Just like any development that affects your child’s sleep, practicing those new skills during the day helps them master it quicker, which helps their brain settle. Start practicing with short amounts of time if you need to, but just start.
Don’t sneak out! But don’t drag out goodbye either. I know this one is super tempting! In fact, I’m sure I’ve done it before when my kiddos were younger. I knew they were in good hands, and would be okay shortly after I left. But the problem with this method is that you’re trying to build that trust with your child during this unsettling time for them. And let’s just say this way of doing things does anything but build trust.
We also don’t want to make things worse than they need to be. And hanging around while your little one has big feelings over the situation doesn’t help anyone. Instead, drop them off like you always do, and…
Reassure them that you’ll be back. Reminders like “I’ll come back like I always do” or “See you when I return” can help comfort your little one in their distress. You’re their world, so it’s natural that you leaving is distressing. But there’s comfort in your reassurances too.
Developments are wonderful, but they can throw everyone for a loop. If you’re struggling with your sleep, schedule, or sanity, know that I’m here to support you. Inadequate rest affects each of these things so intricately, that every aspect of your life is influenced by it.
You deserve to feel like you again, and your little one just wants to be loved by you and feel rested! You handle the loving part, and I’ll handle the custom sleep plan so you can support your baby in their independent sleep skills. Ready to get started? Have questions first? Your first step is a free discovery call with me, so we can get your babe sleeping in a way that you feel good about!
Can’t wait to get started!