helping toddlers separation anxiety

Helping Toddlers With Separation Anxiety

January 31, 2024
Helping Toddlers With Separation Anxiety

There are a few seemingly negative issues that are actually just a common part of young child development, and the concept of separation anxiety is a great example. Most common in toddlers and children around this age range, separation anxiety refers to children becoming anxious, clingy or even downright irritable when left at child care by their parents - while challenging, separation anxiety is both normal and possible to overcome. 

At First Steps Childcare & Preschool, we offer caring child care programs for families around Salt Lake City, ranging from infants and toddler services to preschool classes and more. Here's a look at why separation anxiety can sometimes happen in toddlers and children of a similar age, plus some ways that both parents and caregivers alike can work together to limit the severity and duration of separation anxiety in children while helping them through this stage of their development.

Why Separation Anxiety Happens

There are a few specific reasons why some children may experience separation anxiety as they become more independent from their parents. Often, it's simply because toddlers are still in the process of learning how to soothe themselves and manage stressors - such as being away from mom or dad for extended periods of time. 

And while this is a frustrating aspect of toddler behavior for many families, it's important to remember that it's a normal part of young child development. Separation anxiety can even come and go in waves as children grow older, depending on their specific personalities and the many other factors that contribute to healthy development during these formative years.

As children get older, for instance, their conception of time and distance may shift as they develop a better understanding of the world around them. This can make it easier to explain to children how long they'll be away from home when dropped off at child care or preschool, which in turn makes it simpler for both children and caregivers alike to manage separation anxiety.

Our next few sections will go over some tips on how to address and manage separation anxiety in toddlers or other children when it does happen. 

Have a Plan

One of the most important broad concepts to keep in mind is that planning ahead and being consistent can go a long way towards helping children cope with temporary separation from their parents. Consistency especially helps us here at First Steps Childcare & Preschool, where we work hard to ensure our toddlers and other children have regular routines and reliable expectations for how things play out while they're here.

It's important for parents, in turn, to also follow through with consistent parenting styles that reinforce the importance of sticking with routines and reinforcing expectations around separation anxiety. As parents show their children how to properly manage stress and develop a sense of independence when it comes to spending time away from home, they will pick up on these cues and become more confident as well.

Stay Positive

Another key concept when dealing with separation anxiety is to remain as positive and reassuring as possible. Even though it may be tempting to give in to a clingy toddler or offer extra comfort when they're upset, doing so can actually reinforce negative behaviors and make the situation worse over time.

Instead, try focusing on building up your child's confidence through praise and encouraging words. Reminding them that they are brave, strong and capable of facing challenges can help them feel more secure and calm as they navigate separation anxiety.

Keep the Goodbye Brief

While you may be tempted to spend extra time with your child at drop-off, it's important to keep goodbyes brief and consistent. Dragging out the separation process can actually make things harder for both the child and the parent in the long run.

Instead, have a quick goodbye routine that you follow each day. For example, giving a hug and kiss before saying "See you later" and leaving. This will help your child become more familiar with the separation process and understand that it is a routine part of their day.

Immediate Activities

One helpful way to ease separation anxiety is by immersing your child in a fun and engaging activity as soon as you leave. This will help them take their mind off the initial stress of being separated from their parent.

At First Steps Childcare & Preschool, we offer a range of activities for children to enjoy, from arts and crafts to storytelling and outdoor play. These activities not only help children develop important skills, but also create a positive and stimulating environment for them to thrive in.

Communication with Caregivers

Finally, it's important for parents to communicate openly and regularly with their child's caregivers. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to managing separation anxiety and helping your child feel comfortable and secure while in our care.

Our team at First Steps Childcare & Preschool is always happy to work with parents and provide support and guidance as needed. We understand that dealing with separation anxiety can be challenging, but our goal is to create a safe and nurturing environment for all of the children in our care. Contact us today to learn more about this or any of our child care programs and services for families around SLC!

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