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Separation Anxiety—HELP!


We’ve been lucky that Nic’s never been the kid who cried when we left him with grandma (grandma is gratefulImage by TacitRequiem on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons. for this too!).  However, just in the past few days, naps and bedtime (and getting back to sleep in the middle of the night) have become a major struggle.  Separation anxiety has finally set in.  He clings to me, tries to climb up my arms and cries “MAMAMAMAMAMA.”  It breaks my heart, but I know I can’t sleep with him on the couch every night (like I did the other night).

So, what do I do?  At nap time yesterday, I waited intervals of about 15 minutes, went back into his room, gave him a big hug and then left.  After two times (and some Ke$ha) he fell asleep.  Is this the right approach?  Other suggestions? 

Reader Comments (6)

Oh lord. There's no such thing as a "right" approach, despite what half the world will tell you when your kid won't sleep. There's just whatever happens to work for your kid.

I personally recommend 100 times the My Tot Clock:

Little Dude is way better about being willing to go back to sleep now. I think it's really helped him know what to expect, you know? Sometimes what works for us is for me to be one room over and singing. (Little ones still struggle with object permanence, and when you are out of sight, they don't know how far away you've gone or when you'll be back.) Sometimes I give in and just sit by the bed.

But really, for midnight wakings? Tot Clock all the way...

July 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

My son, Kai, is usually pretty good at staying with his nan. On occasion he fusses but I think that's only for my benefit as I've been told that he's back to his normal self a few minutes after I leave.

Sleeping at nights is probably the only problem area. There are times when he will not go to sleep if I'm not in the room. He has even resorted to holding on to my pajamas, I suspect, to make sure I stay put after he's nodded off. Though, I have my ways to escape LOL.

I'm looking at it as a phase he'll grow out of. He's only 2 but already some of his earlier habits have given way to new (often, very funny) behaviours. He quite a character.

July 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSam

My oldest son had/has seperation anxiety to the extreme. It started when he was 14 months and didn't really get better until he was 2.5 years old (when I put in him "school"). I agree with the first person who said there isn't a right general answer. There is only a right answer for your child. You'll just have to figure out what works with tiral and error. I think what you have been doing with the 15 minute thing is a good approach. I would keep trying that for the next few weeks. If it continues try something else. Try giving him a stuffed animal of his favorite cartoon charachter to "protect" him. Maybe even try wearing the stuffed animal on your body for a few hours, so it will smell like you. Now that my older son is 3, we have a rewards chart and if he gets all of his stickers, he gets a special treat. One of his objectives is to sleep in his bed all night without mommy's or daddy's help. Of course that might be a little too advanced at your LO's age right now.

July 8, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Thanks so much for your feedback and advice. Knock on wood, our problem was short-lived and he's back to normal.

I'm really intrigued by the Tot Clock though! I think Nic's still a bit young for it (doesn't know/understand colors yet), but I'm bookmarking it for when he's bigger!

July 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathalee Ghafouri

Hi Nath, I'm so sorry! Hopefully it doesn't come back. Reese has had separation anxiety a lot over the past couple of months. Some days are worse than others. She gets really upset and cries when I leave the room even if I simply walk to the kitchen for a second. If she can't see me, then it's like I've left her all alone. What I do now is talk to her the entire time. I say, "Reese, Mommy is going to go to the kitchen to make your bottle." Then I gesture for her to follow me and say, "Reese come with Momma. Let's go make your bottle." Then she follows me and she sits right outside the kitchen gate. She doesn't love it but she at least doesn't cry as much. It's gotten A LOT better. I think the main thing is just reassuring the babes that we're still around even if they can't see us.

July 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Elle has started crying when I put her down for naps or bedtime and leave the room. I catered to the whim a few days, holding her hand. That's where I went wrong. Three days makes a habit! I've been slowly weening her off but it hasn't been easy. She looks up to see if I've left the room.

I just do the thing where I let her cry for five minutes and then go back in and put her back down (she is now standing sometimes staring at the door crying. :() and let her get comfy and run her head/back and just repeat the process until she goes down...

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