What are some ways you can deal with separation anxiety?
I am hearing from so many parents lately with children of different ages that their children are waking up multiple times during the night and they don’t know why.
They thought maybe it was teething, nightmares, or sleep regression. Once I hear their stories I often tell them its separation anxiety and when we recall their past few nights of no sleep, it starts to make sense for them. They agree this sudden change in their child’s behaviour is most likely due to separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is a very common sleeping issue in younger children and can peak around 8- 10 months and anywhere from 1.5- 2 years of age.
For younger babies it’s a sign that they are developing good object permanance and for older chilren they are much more aware and have built strong attachment to their parents and don’t want to be separated from them for an entire night.
It can be difficult to deal with as a parent, especially if for you it’s a first time experience. Often your usual settling tricks just aren’t working and you are not sure what else you can do?!
Here are some tips of how best to deal with this in a positive and pratical way:
1. Extend your bedtime routine: often what your child needs is more 1-1 time with you especially if they have been in childcare all day and haven’t seen you. It’s sometimes as simple as ‘they miss you’! if your bedtime routine usually goes for an hour than extend it a little longer by 15- 20 minutes. You can either draw out their reading time or bath time. Sitting down in their room for 10 minutes before putting them to bed can make the separation to bedtime easier.
2. Give them extra TLC and cuddles before bedtime: Give them lots of reassurance with your love right before bedtime as well as when you put them down to sleep.
3. Talk to your child: I always say it’s good to talk to your child, but especially during phases of anxiety. Reassure them over and over that you are there, in the next room, even when they in bed sleeping as well as during the day. If you intend to leave them with a nanny or family member for whatever reason explain to them where you are going and when you will be coming back.
4. For middle of the night wake ups it’s often a good idea if you cannot settle them in their own room to walk around the house and show them that everyone is still asleep, that it’s the middle of the night and time to go to sleep. Reassure them again that you are there for them, but now it’s time for sleep.
5. With younger babies, during the day play ‘pick a boo’ and hide and seek and use your voice to show them that even though they can’t see you, you are still there.
6. Try not to re- settle your baby by giving them a night feed if this has something you have already stopped doing. There is no need to revert back to old habits as a way of dealing with their distress.
7. Remember that this is a phase and it will pass. Work wtih your child not against them in order to manage their anxiety. Take a deep breath it will pass soon !! 🙂