3 Steps to Ease Separation Anxiety & Foster Early Childhood Development


Confession: My 3-year-old son Caleb still sleeps in our bed. Confession #2: I love it, but I fear it’s led to separation anxiety and could inhibit his early childhood development.

It wasn’t planned this way. My older son slept in his own room at the tender age of 3 months. So how did this happen?

Caleb has acid reflux. As an infant, he had to sleep propped up or he’d spit up massive amounts of milk, accompanied by shrieks that lasted well into the early morning hours. We tried the baby wedge pillow but he’d manage to flip upside down on it. The only technique that worked was pulling him into our bed. I slept sitting up with Caleb propped up on my chest.

After about a year or so, his acid reflux episodes became less frequent. By that time he’d grown accustomed to sleeping nuzzled up against mommy. We sang, prayed and bless him, he’d caress my face and give me those precious baby kisses.

However, he’s a mama’s boy. When it came time to get a babysitter, or even enroll him in an early childhood development class, he’d cling, cry, vomit and leave.

Confession #3, he has major separation anxiety. In fact, he’s unwilling to take any type of childhood development class unless it was mommy and me. Oh no.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Separation anxiety usually peaks between ages 10 and 18 months. Most children outgrow separation anxiety by age 24 months.” Caleb had turned 3 and I worried how he would start preschool. Thoughts of him clinging and crying and vomiting haunted me.

If your child is also experiencing separation anxiety, here is some helpful information that can help when leaving them at an early childhood development program or daycare:
3 Steps to Ease Separation Anxiety

• Time your departure carefully. Your child may be more likely to have a fit when you leave if he or she is tired, hungry or restless. If you can, leave when your child is fed and rested.
• Give your child something to look forward to. Discuss with your child something fun that will happen while you’re gone.
• Leave a reminder. Offer a special blanket, stuffed animal or other comforting object for your child to hold while you’re gone.
Also, keep the tears in perspective. Your child’s tears are an attempt to keep you from leaving. When you’re gone, the tears aren’t likely to last long — especially once your child is engaged in a new activity.

Lately, I’ve been speaking to Caleb about the preschool he’ll attend next year. And I emphasize all the fun activities he’ll get to do. He’s starting to get excited and is even practicing what he’ll say on his first day, “Good morning Ms. Sue.” And he’s amped about the double bikes on the playground. And last week, another positive sign that his separation anxiety may be easing some: I took him to my gym’s babysitting room last Thursday and hallelujah! He didn’t cry. What’s more, he didn’t want to leave! I know many moms have experienced this and I’m happy to join the club. I feel liberated with my newfound freedom. Next step is sleeping in his own bed, which leads me to my Final Confession: I’m going to miss sleeping with my little angel.


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