Today I want to talk a little bit about separation anxiety.
I get a lot of letters and emails from people saying that they’re not sure if it’s the right time to start the Sleep Sense Program because their child is going through separation anxiety. That is a very common phenomenon that most children go through at one point in their lives. Some experience it a little more often and severely than others. I do find that there tends to be a correlation around sleep and separation anxiety.
Good Naps During The Day
I find that children who sleep well and take proper naps and get a solid night sleep are less prone to bouts of separation anxiety because they’re rested. We all know, if we’re not feeling rested, we tend to be a little quick to anger, we might be a little low on attention, all the things if you’re running on a sleep debt that you’re going to feel, so do your children. So, it makes sense that a baby who is not sleeping well might be a little clingier through the day, might be quick to tears over the littlest things at certain points in the day.
The first step is to have a good look at your child’s sleep schedule and are there ways that you can make some improvements there. Another thing to do is to practice peek-a-boo. I know it sounds silly but when babies are learning, they don’t always understand that when things leave their vision, they don’t disappear from the earth. That’s why they tend to cry as soon as you walk out of the room because they don’t yet understand that just because they can’t see you doesn’t mean you don’t exist anymore. By practicing peek-a-boo, even if you just walk out of the room, come back in, “Peek-a-boo. See? Mummy is still here,” will teach your child that just because you’re gone doesn’t mean you’ve left the building. That’s a good thing to practice at any age.
Another thing to think about too is that this is a common phenomenon. Like I said, most children go through it at some point in their lives and it’s not the end of the world. I think we get a little too emotional around it because we worry so much as parents.
Relax, You Are Doing Fine…
But if you need to go to the bathroom or you have to answer the telephone, it is not the end of the world if your child has a breakdown when you do that. Because the more you cater to this, potentially the more it might occur. If every time you take a step to leave, he starts to have a meltdown and you come back, the danger in that he might start to understand that, “All I have to do to keep her in the room is start to cry or throw a fit and she’ll never leave.” That’s definitely not the behaviour you want to try to encourage.
Sleep Sense Program
Now, if you’re about to start the program and you’re worried or your baby is going through a little phase where they’re very upset when you leave or they don’t’ want to be helped by anyone else, then the stay in the room option that’s outlined in the program is a fabulous solution to that problem because you’re not going anywhere. You’re staying right there by the baby’s side. You don’t have to worry about causing any problems for your child or overly upsetting them. Not that they won’t be upset, they most likely will be very upset at first because you’ve changed their strategy and you’re making some big changes to their sleep habits, but you haven’t gone anywhere. So that can be comforting to a lot of parents.
I guess my big piece of advice here is try to relax around this like everything else in your child’s life. It’s a phase. You’ll get through it. She’ll get through it and she’ll be fine. OK?