Separation anxiety is overwhelming. It is a constant anxiety that I really could never explain until I experienced it fairly severely with my almost 2-year-old.
Recently, I spent some time in hospital. From the time I got out, she has not left my side. She is the youngest of four and is very outgoing, extremely social and clever and has a lot of speech for her age.
But that being said, if I leave her to go to the toilet, she cries an uncontrollable, genuinely scared cry.
When you think of separation anxiety, you might usually think of times such as leaving your little one at creche or at school or with a minder. But separation anxiety comes in many different forms.
For us, if I move an inch forward on the couch to reach for something, she immediately grabs my top and pulls me back. She wants to be constantly touching me with her body, her hand, her foot or even just her side.
If the doorbell rings, she grabs hold of me and buries her head in my chest in case I leave her. If I go to the toilet, she has to come with me.
It is exhausting, suffocating and overwhelming. I adore my daughter and would never leave her upset but I need a minute or two to get things done too.
Here are some helpful ways to get through it:
This too shall pass.
All children are completely different. If your child is naturally shy or has never been cared for by a minder, they may experience more severe separation anxiety.
But, my almost 2-year-old is the youngest of four and is the only one to have experienced it this severe. But it will and it does, eventually, pass.
Trust your gut.
You know your little one better than anyone else in the world. If something feels not right with their behaviour, listen to your gut.
If it is the case where you will have to leave them, the best thing to do is practice. If you are getting a new minder or they are going to a creche, have your minder come over for an hour while you are there to get your child used to them. Similarly, you could make a few trips to their new creche with them and help them get used to it.
Try to stay calm and consistent.
Start a routine of saying goodbye. Say a loving but firm goodbye. Give your little one your full attention but when you say goodbye and mean it. If you hang around or get upset, you will only make things much worse and confusing for your child.
Validate your feelings.
It is important to validate how you are feeling in all of this. You can still adore your baby and also feel like you never get a break or even miss life pre-children. It’s tough sometimes, and that’s okay.
For most little ones, separation anxiety naturally passes as they get older. But if you feel it is going on longer than you deem ‘normal’ talk to your doctor.