In the early stages of infancy, parents are typically always with their babies. Once a child is born, you are basically glued to their side and that’s not a bad thing because they need you. You are the one responsible for making sure your baby is as happy and healthy as can be. However, as they start to get older, it’s common for babies to have trouble with being left alone while sleeping because they are so used to having someone around constantly to comfort them and reassure them that they are safe. A little separation anxiety during these periods is completely normal but it’s important to truly understand what it means to have separation anxiety so that you can recognize the signs and determine if professional help may be needed.

understanding separation anxiety in children

What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a mental health condition that occurs when your child is experiencing excessive worry or fear about separation from the home or an attachment figure. Experiencing this is completely normal but it is supposed to fade away as your child gets older. Separation anxiety can affect academic, social and personal development. Generally it lasts anywhere between 4 weeks and 6 months in children. Some signs of separation anxiety include:

  • Fear of being left alone
  •  Bad dreams
  •  Refusal to sleep
  •   Excessive worry
  • Headaches

What You Can Do To Help

There are ways to combat your child’s separation anxiety in order to help them come to an understanding that you aren’t going to abandon them even though they are spending some time alone. It’s important to build trust with your baby so that they believe you will always be there when they need you even when they can’t see you. A great way to start doing this is by having a bedtime routine. Building this routine and sticking to it consistently is a great way for your baby to really see that they can rely on you even during bedtime and everything is going to be okay. Other ways to help with separation anxiety are:

  •   Practice separation: Consider leaving your child with a caregiver or someone else so they find comfort in being cared for even when you aren’t around.
  •  Don’t make leaving a big deal: Let your child know you are leaving but you will be returning and then follow through with your words.
  • Resist the urge to comfort them more than needed: Part of sleep training with a child that has separation anxiety could include allowing them to tough it out at certain points. These moments can be really hard on parents but communicate as best you can and stick to the routine and most likely they will start to adapt.
  • Make saying goodnight fun: Turn the last goodbye into a fun experience before bed. Maybe sing a little song or do a quick handshake together before the kiss goodnight so they have something to look forward to when saying goodbye.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety disorder occurs when separation anxiety is worsening past the normal standards. Some causes of this disorder in children could be a significant change in their environment or stress. Some signs to look for in your child include:

  •  Extreme clinginess
  • Physical sickness such as stomach or head pain
  • Fear of something terrible happening
  • Worry of permanent separation

If your child is experiencing these symptoms for a longer-period of time and it’s interfering with their day to day life, it may be time to seek some professional guidance by consulting your doctor.

understanding separation anxiety in children

What We Can Do To Help

If your child is struggling to sleep through the night and you think separation anxiety is playing a large factor, we encourage you to seek some professional guidance. Sleep consultants are infant and toddler sleep specialists that can help families get their nights back to normal by providing remote or in-home sleep training. They can give you the relief and the supportive care needed for you and your baby to get back to your beauty rest. Sleep Shop is staffed with many well certified sleep consultants that not only have great techniques, but also plenty of their own personal experience. Our goal is to use these techniques to restore your peace-of-mind while tailoring our tactics to each family’s unique goals.

About The Sleep Shop

The Sleep Shop is led by Melissa, a mother of four, and is a member of the International Association of Professional Sleep Consultants.

We offer one-on-one unlimited consulting, sleep classes with our founder, phone consultations, 1-week jumpstarts, infant sleep guides, 2 weeks of consulting, toddler nap guides, toddler sleep guides, toddler total resets, and “the toddler tune-up”.

We offer sleep consulting services in all of New York City including Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Flat Iron District, Turtle Bay, Tribeca, Upper East Side, Soho, Staten Island, and the greater NYC area.

Contact us today to learn more.