For parents, separating from their children is an inevitable reality. Whether they are leaving for work or simply going to school, there will always be moments when the family must be separated. But what happens if your toddler has separation anxiety? It can be difficult and frustrating for both you and your child. However, you can do something to ease the stress and manage the condition with these few simple tips on how to deal with toddler separation anxiety.

How long does separation anxiety last among toddlers?

Separation anxiety usually starts to appear as children approach school age. Toddlers may suddenly become more clingy or start demanding constant attention. This is a normal phase for children at this age. Parents also need to remember that every child is different. Outgrowing toddler separation anxiety may differ from one child to another.

What are the signs of toddler separation anxiety?

Your children may show signs of separation anxiety if they:

  • Refuse to go to school or daycare
  • Become very upset when you have to leave them with another caregiver. They may cry and scream very loudly.
  • Do not like spending time away from you. They will cry and act very clingy when it is time for any activity that takes them away from you.
  • Get extremely upset when they lose sight of you in a store or public place (like the mall). 

How can you alleviate separation anxiety with toddlers?

Toddler separation anxiety can last as little as just a few months to as long as a few years. There are several approaches that parents can use to help children cope with these challenging times. Here are our tips to help soothe your little one’s anxiety.

Shorten your good-byes

Every time you drop your child off at the daycare, take time to set the expectations for what will happen each day. When you leave your little one with a caregiver, try to keep those good-byes short. Avoid letting your children see that you feel anxious about leaving. Also, as difficult as it may be, try to resist going back for more hugs. These types of actions can signal to a child that something is wrong.

It is also discouraged for parents to sneak out when leaving children with another caregiver. This will only exacerbate their feelings of panic because you’re suddenly out of their sight. Make it clear to your child that those moments of being apart are okay and only temporary. Let them know that there’s nothing to worry about and that you will return soon.

Give children some control

Developing their sense of independence can help lessen toddler separation anxiety. As they get older, you can gradually give children tasks that will help them feel more in control and independent. This can help them learn to cope with both positive and negative situations. When it comes to your return, be sure to tell them ahead of time when you’re coming back.

For some children, it may be helpful to let them choose what they wear to school or daycare. You can also encourage little ones to make new friends by bringing a toy or book over to their peers during playtime. You might even ask what they’d like to do when you see each other again.

Surprise them with your return

We know this may sound a bit odd at first, but your little one will love it. You can help alleviate toddler separation anxiety by surprising them every now and then. You might pop in during storytime, or when you’re about to leave, announce that you’re coming back later. Just make sure you don’t do this too often as your toddler may become suspicious if you keep doing this kind of thing.

Establish a routine with your child

Parents can ease their children’s worries by creating a short good-bye routine. Let toddlers know that you’ll be back at the end of the day. Then give them a quick kiss and hug goodbye. If you keep your goodbyes quick every day, this will help your child experience a more positive and predictable transition.

Arrange an activity

You can ask your daycare staff or teachers to prepare activities your little one can engage in as you leave the center. This will help to refocus your child on the fun aspects of daycare, instead of on feelings of sadness when you leave. This can also help your child become stuck on feelings of anxiety each morning at drop-off time.

At Cornerstone Learning Center, we help parents ease toddler separation anxiety by engaging children in a variety of activities at our center. Call us today for more information!