17-Month-Old Toddler Development: Separation Anxiety
If you can't go anywhere without your toddler pitching a fit or if you've repeated out loud, "I'm still here, I'm still here," while you walked into the kitchen to refill your coffee cup, you know how hard it can be to cope with separation anxiety ... and that's just from your perspective! What you're thinking: "Puh-leeze just let me walk out of the room and go to the bathroom, kid, or else you won't be the only one peeing her pants around here!"
- Separation anxiety typically shows up when your kid is around 7 or 8 months old. It subsides for a few months, and then just when you've been lulled into believing it's safe to walk out of the room, it comes back with a vengeance, peaking at around 18 months. It will finally subside at around 3 years old (hang in there!). While separation anxiety is an entirely normal developmental milestone, there are some things you can do—besides never, ever leaving your kid—that can help ease the pain.
- Although it seems like a great idea to sneak out of the door while your kid isn't watching, don't. If she doesn't get to say goodbye to you, it'll only worry her more and you'll compound the problem.
- Never let her see you sweat. When you say "Bye-bye," act like it's no biggy. Tell your kid you'll be right back and plaster on a big ole smile as you trot out the door, even if you feel like dying inside. Never let your kid know that her anxiety is upsetting you or she'll be even more freaked.
- Prepare her for your impending departure. Set aside a little bonding time before you head out, and let her know that Mommy has to go to work (or to get a mani-pedi. Hey, a girl can dream!) and tell her you'll be back soon. You can give her a picture of the two of you together to look at if she misses you.
- Always give your kid a specific benchmark for when you'll be home. Don't tell her "See you at six!"—he'll have no idea what you're saying. Instead, pick an event and let her know you'll be back "after snack" or "at bath time." Yes, your kid is brilliant, but she can't tell time just yet.
- Watching your kid in the throes of separation anxiety can pull at a parent's heartstrings like nothing else. You feel guilty and evil for causing your baby so much distress. But believe it or not, it's good for you to head out sans kid sometimes. She'll develop some independence and confidence and you'll get a much needed break from the rigors of parenting. (Never thought you'd think of going to the dentist as a "break," did ya?)
- "When my children were toddlers, I took a temporary, three-morning-a-week job. I worried about their separation anxiety... but it turned out the only one suffering from separation anxiety was me!"
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All kids grow and develop at different rates. So please don't compare your toddler with so-and-so's from across the street—you'll just drive yourself nuts. If you have any concerns, bring them up with your pediatrician at your kid's next checkup.