Why Does Separation Anxiety Happen At Nights
Separation anxiety is a normal part of your baby’s emotional development. Separation anxiety usually occurs when your baby understands that you exist even when you aren’t around. Because their sense of time is still maturing, they can’t calmly wait for you to return. Separation anxiety at night is no different. It can also occur because of strange noises at night or over-attachment to parents.
From an evolutionary standpoint, separation anxiety makes a lot of sense. A defenseless child will naturally feel anxious and get upset when left alone or taken away from their guardian.
Separation anxiety at night usually starts when your baby is around 6 months old and peaks between 10 and 18 months. It usually gets better by the time your baby turns two. Separation anxiety can lead to disrupted sleep. During this phase of emotional development, your baby may get up several times during the night and cry for you or your partner. It’s common during these times of distress for your baby to express a preference for one parent over the other.
When Does Separation Anxiety In Babies Occur
The earliest signs of anxiety in babies can be spotted around 4 months, when infants behave a little differently with people other than Mom or Dad. However, proper separation anxiety occurs around 6-7 months, peaking between 9-18 months and settling down by the second birthday. Common instances this can be seen are:
- When you leave the room
- When you go back to work
- When baby is alone in her cot at night
- When guests try to approach the baby
- If there is a new maid/baby sitter
- When a new person is hired at the daycare center
Tips For Separation Anxiety In Babies
While your baby’s cries might tempt you to cancel your plans, giving in will only make matters worse the next time you need to leave. Here’s what you can do to comfort your child.
Practice separation: To make separation less of a shock, play peekaboo to reinforce the notion that youll always return. You can also send stuffed animals or dolls on little “journeys” and then reunite them with your child. Finally, try leaving him for a few short periods of timea half hour to an hourwith someone he knows and trusts. Once he sees that you always return , try out a babysitter.
Create a goodbye ritual: Routine is especially important for younger babies, notes Donna Holloran, owner of Babygroup, Inc. in Santa Monica, California. Try creating a goodbye ritual that will soothe both of you and prepare Baby for the separation. Sing a little song, give a hug and kiss, or wave to your little one right before you walk out the door. Find whatever works for you and stick to it.
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How Can You Help Your Child With Separation Anxiety
Children who feel secure are better able to handle separations. Cuddling and comforting your child when you are together can help him or her feel more secure. Other ways to help your child with separations include the following:
Comfort and reassure your child when he or she is afraid.
At home, help your baby learn independence by allowing him or her to crawl to other rooms for a short period of time alone.
Tell your baby if you are going to another room and that you will be back then come back.
Plan your separations when your baby is rested and fed, rather than before a nap or meal.
Introduce new people and places gradually, allowing your baby time to get to know a new care provider.
Do not prolong good-byes and have the sitter distract your baby or child with a toy as you leave.
Introduce a transitional object such as a blanket or soft toy to help ease separations.
For night awakenings, comfort and reassure your child by patting and soothing, but avoid letting your child get out of bed.
How To Deal With Separation Anxiety
Like most phases, this is something you just have to ride out, but there are some things you can do to help you and your baby get through it and feel better.
Stick to routines: Separation anxiety at naptime, bedtime and nighttime wakings is pretty common, says Carrie Prowse, a child sleep consultant at Little Star Sleep Solutions in Winnipeg. Create a short, predictable routine for your child so that they can feel comfortable, regardless of who puts them down for naps or bedtime, she says. Those cues can really help cue the production of melatonin and make your child feel safe and secure when it comes to any sleep situation. A bedtime ritual of having a bath, putting on PJs, singing a song and going to bed works welljust skip the bath before naptime, of course. Studies have shown that babies pick up on key phrases as early as three months of age, she adds. Put your baby in the crib and say something like Good night, I love you several times in a row. Its a way to give them comfort and support. Remember that when your baby is sick or extra-tired, their separation anxiety may ramp up.
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Explain What Is Happening And Return On Time
When leaving an infant with someone else, caregivers should explain that they are going away for a little while but that they will come back. As the baby gets older, they will begin to understand these explanations.
It can also be helpful to provide a timeframe. When doing this, be specific so that the child knows exactly when to expect a return. For example, a caregiver could say, I will be back after your nap to take you home.
It is important to return on time, as returning later can cause a child not to trust what the caregiver says.
Create A Goodbye Ritual Using Baby Signand A Comfort Item From Home
As mentioned earlier, saying goodbye is important to maintain trust in your relationship. You can turn your goodbye into a fun and comforting ritual by giving your child an item from home that reminds them of you and by sticking to the same set of words and gestures each time you leave. Incorporating the baby sign for work into the ritual may reduce anxiety as it helps them understand where youll be while youre gone.For example: Leave baby with a favorite stuffed animal, show the sign for work, squeeze them tight, sing I love you and Ill be back soon, and then blow three kisses goodbye. When this is done consistently enough, your baby may even,eventually, look forward to saying goodbye to you!
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What Are The Signs You Are Suffering From Separation Anxiety As A Parent
According to Elaine, the most obvious signs are when parents obsessively micro-manage their childrens lives. This could be over-planning to ensure everything is scheduled or never allowing your child the potential to come to danger.
Elaine explains that this inadvertently creates a learned helplessness in our children.
She continued: We do our children no favours when we find dont let go and its a parents job to assist our children with the process of growing up and not impede it.
Why Separation Anxiety Happens
If your baby used to be calm when you left the room and they were happy to be held by people they didn’t know, it may not seem to make sense when they start crying whenever you’re not there or strangers are close.
But separation anxiety is a sign your baby now realises how dependent they are on the people who care for them. That can include their grandparents or professionals closely involved with their care, as well as their parents.
As they get more aware of their surroundings, your baby’s strong relationship with this small group means they don’t feel so safe without you. Their growing awareness of the world around them can also make them feel unsafe or upset in new situations or with new people, even if you are there.
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Once You Leave Dont Go Check On Them
A rule that any parent needs to stick to when they are dealing with their baby having separation anxiety is to not go into the room or head back to the house once you leave them. You need to trust the sitter that is watching your baby to be able to handle the situation. Or if they have separation anxiety issues with you just going into another room you need to let them cry it out and start learning to self soothe. If your partner start heading back and checking up on them your baby is going to realize that you will do this anytime they get upset.
Remember: It Won’t Last Forever
Remember that this phase of separation anxiety at night is temporary and will ultimately pass. Separation anxiety in general usually gets better by the time your baby turns two. If your baby is naturally shy or has stressors of other kinds, their separation anxiety might be more intense. If your baby has excessive or persistent separation anxiety, you can ask your doctor for advice.
You can talk to your child about what you’re going to do in the morning, leave favorite toys with them, make a routine of goodbyes and reunions, show your love, and play peek-a-boo games with them to ease their separation anxiety at bedtime.
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Create A Separation Plan With Your Child
This is one thing that really helped ease my own childs separation anxiety.
A separation plan is just a plan about how you will say goodbye when you and your child need to separate.
You might need multiple plans for different situations for example, one for when youre dropping them off at school and one for when youre leaving the house without them, etc.
This gives your child some control over how they separate from you.
For example, our separation plan was to wait in the car for the bell to ring, then wed walk inside together and Id give him 3 hugs at the elevator, then hed be the one to press the button for me to leave.
Later, it was changed to 3 hugs at the main door, as he became more comfortable leaving me for school, eventually separating went more and more smoothly.
Tactics And Tips To Help You Avoid Separation Anxiety At Night
Here are a few strategies you can try to lessen separation anxiety at night:
Create a bedtime routine. Having one in place can make a difference, because it can set your babyâs expectations by keeping to a consistent pattern.
Leave the nursery door open. Your baby might feel comforted knowing he can still hear you in the other room.
Give your baby a transitional object. Babies normally develop a consoling habit during this time: He may suck his thumb, rock back and forth, and/or stroke and hug an object. Ask your healthcare provider if itâs OK to give him a small blankie or a stuffed animal.
Donât reward your babyâs behavior. Try not to inadvertently reward your baby for calling for you in the middle of the night. You can check on him to make sure that heâs not sick and doesn’t need a diaper change, and verbally comfort him. Beyond that, donât pick him up, take him back to bed with you, or turn on the light. Before leaving, encourage your baby to go back to sleep. If he continues to cry, you can comfort him for a little bit longer.
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Keep Goodbyes Brief And Upbeat
Drawn-out goodbyes can prolong distress, so keep goodbyes brief and positive. It may help to create a goodbye ritual, such as a special handshake, or providing the child with a special blanket or toy to comfort them.
It is OK to comfort a child who is experiencing separation anxiety, but do not linger. Give them full attention and affection, and then leave.
Providing comfort and reassurance during the day may help ease nighttime separations. However, often a little extra support is necessary at bedtime to help children feel secure before they fall asleep.
It may help to:
- stick to a bedtime routine
- ensure they have a security toy or blanket with them
- stay calm and relaxed while saying goodnight, as children can detect their caregivers moods
- avoid sneaking out after they fall asleep this can cause distress if they wake up again
- comfort the child if they wake up by rubbing or patting them until they calm down, then leave
- when possible, avoid taking them out of the bed and rocking them to sleep
age of 3 years and begins to fade as the child develops a greater understanding that their caregiver will return. However, some children can continue to experience separation anxiety for longer periods.
When separation anxiety persists into later childhood, it is known as childhood separation anxiety disorder . This is a mental health condition that causes a level of separation anxiety that is unusual for the childs stage of development.
Preserve A Constant Schedule
Kids do greatest after they get sufficient sleep, have an honest breakfast, and are usually not rushed.
- To avoid wasting time within the morning, pack lunches and snacks the night time earlier than.
- Stand up twenty minutes earlier than your kids to offer for additional time.
- At night time, have your footwear, socks, and luggage prepared by the doorway.
Signs Of Separation Anxiety In Babies
- Crying/wailing loudly
- Going from room to room looking for Mom/Dad
- Turning away from the stranger
- Running towards Mom or Dad, asking to be carried
- Running to the opposite end of the room
- Become unnaturally quiet
- Hiding behind furniture or a familiar person
While all these signs are perfectly normal in babies of this age, it can be upsetting for everyone the baby, you and of course, the well-meaning stranger whos being rejected so rudely! This can create some awkward situations with family members and is also a pain when trying to get young kids used to a new baby sitter or a new daycare center. While separation anxiety in babies cant be prevented altogether, there are a few things you can do to ease the situation for everyone involved.
How To Deal With Separation Anxiety In Babies Toddlers And Parents
Many parents struggle with being away from their children, particularly when they are young, but it’s important you don’t let separation anxiety stop them from developing.
It can be draining on mothers when a child wants to be with them every second of the day, and some parents may not be able to tell when the separation anxiety has become a real problem.
Of course, it is natural for children, especially babies, to get upset when they part from their mother or father, or main caregiver, but its vital that their anxiety doesnt hold them back.
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