Has your child ever become distressed and cried when you left the room? This is the first sign of separation anxiety, an important part of a child's development. Further reading: First babysitting
Everything is fine as long as you're there, but as soon as you disappear from the child's view, it starts crying desperately. This is because when you disappear from sight, your infant thinks you no longer exist. This can be a devastating feeling. The severity of the separation anxiety depends largely on the infant's personality.
Give the baby support and security
Many babies start showing signs of separation anxiety at around six or seven months, and it can come and go during the first few years. Separation anxiety is usually strongest at 12 to 18 months, and usually disappears at the age of 2 to 2 ½ years.
If the infant cries in protest to being left alone, this is an innate reaction to being abandoned. It is completely natural and not a bad habit that you should discourage. Always listen to your child's needs to reinforce its sense of security, and also for your own peace of mind. Children and parents feel best when there is security and trust between them.
Here are some tips for supporting your child during this stage of development:
• Bear in mind that your calm and well-being will rub off on your child.
• Speak to your child even if you are out of view, so they know you're there.
• Play peekaboo often. It will gradually teach your infant that you're there even when they can't see you.
• Don't make a big issue out of your child's anxiety. Instead, appear calm and secure. You only went away for a moment – and you came back.
• Give your child plenty of hugs, and make it feel extra safe when it gets most anxious.
• Let your child follow after you and accompany you everywhere it wants. If you push a child away while it is anxious or sad, it only increases the child's fear and makes it more clingy.
• Smile when your baby moves away from you and greet it when it comes back. During this time, your baby is curious but needs to come back and be reassured that you are there, before going off to explore some more. Don't try to hurry the process. Let your child know you're close by and that all is well.
Separation anxiety is a natural part of a child's development
At this age, you can't leave the room without your child becoming anxious. It's time to start playing peekaboo.