Dealing With Separation Anxiety

I thought this would be a good topic to discuss since going back to school tomorrow is bringing up memories of all of the things we’ve endured for the past two semesters.

I still can’t even believe I’ve made it this far in school with a baby!

I’m going on my third semester with child, haha and then I have two more before I receive my degree! It seems so close yet still so far away! Nonetheless, I’m grateful to have gotten this far.

Anyways! I want to talk about separation anxiety because this stuff is real and it can be a challenge to overcome, but I want to tell you that it doesn’t last forever.

Lucas developed separation anxiety when he was about 7 months or so. If you didn’t know, separation anxiety is completely normal! It’s a stage of their emotional development where they realize that things and people exist even when they can’t see them, this is called object permanence.

No, your child is not necessarily extra needy or clingy, a mamas boy or a daddy’s girl just because they cry when you walk away.

If they are still under the age of one, up until about two years old, they could be going through this phase of separation aniety. Every child goes through this phase, whether for a short period of time or for some a little longer. I really believe that the duration of separation anxiety has a lot to do with how long you’re with the baby a day and how much they are exposed to other people.

Now, I am no expert in this, nor do I claim to be, but I do study the development of children in school AND I am a mama so I do have some hands-on experience with this stuff!

I do want to make it clear that every child is different so my child’s experience with separation anxiety may be completely different than your child’s. Regardless, I share my experience with you so that you know that you’re not alone and that this is temporary.

Lucas’ Story

So as you guys know I’ve been in school since Lucas was born. Luckily my classes have never been super, duper long and I’ve always only had 3 days away from my baby for only a few hours. When Lucas turned about 7 months, his anxiety when I would leave started to kick in. The poor little guy would cry for hours and give whoever was watching him a hard time. The separation anxiety got so bad that even at church when I would go to the front to lead worship, having eye contact with me and all, Lucas would cry hysterically loud until I came back to hold him! It was to the point where neither his father or his aunt were able to comfort him. 

I was heartbroken, stressed and eventually became frustrated because I felt guilty for leaving him to cry and then guilty for making whoever was caring for him deal with the drama until I got back.

I would say that this lasted about 3 to 4 months.

Those months were pretty dreadful but as the weeks went by the duration of his crying subsided as he started to get used to me dropping him off at the babysitter’s house and me walking away from him at church. 

Thank God it’s just a phase!

Thinking about it now, there are a few factors that I believe helped ease his agony of being apart from me.

I believe that seeing the same face everytime I stepped away gave him a sense of security. I kept taking him to the same babysitter and when I had to step away from him at church I would hand him to a family member or to a friend he was familiar with. Although he still gave them a hard time at first, he got used to going with them.

-Taking short breaks.
When my husband was home I would take advantage of moments to step away from Lucas to either take a long shower, go to the store, do my etc. I feel like this helped him understand that although I go away, I always come back.

-Spending Quality Time.
I’m a strong believer in the nurture side of the Nature versus Nurture theory of human development debate. I believe that if you spend quality time with your child and allow them to feel loved, then their confidence is built and although they go through this stage of separation anxiety, they ultimately become independent from you and know how to act and function without you being present.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I knew exactly what to do when Lucas first entered into this stage, because I didn’t. Like I mentioned before, it was very heartbreaking at times because I just didn’t know what to do.

Some say to let your child know that you are leaving by saying bye and reassuring them that you’ll be back.- I tried that and it didn’t work for us.

Then others say that you have to sneak out when they’re not looking.- I tried that and moments later I would hear him hysterically crying in the back of the church calling out “mama” because he realized I was gone. Or I would get texts from his caretakers saying that he started calling out for me about 5 minutes after I left because he knew I wasn’t there. That was SO hard for me!

So you can see how this gets frustrating after a while!

But I leave you with this, separation anxiety is TEMPORARY!

Your baby is just developing their emotions and he/she will surpass this and YOU WILL make it out alive! Find what works for you guys and run with it!

You got this mama! You’re doing an amazing job!