Eight Tips for Easing Separation Anxiety

Eight Tips For Easing Separation Anxiety

Raising kids is a high-stakes responsibility, and in this age of social media and easy access to information about anything and everything, parents are easily overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy. As a sleep consultant, I see this all the time from parents whose babies aren’t sleeping well.  One of the other major contributors to the, “I’m doing something wrong,” sensation is separation anxiety; that oh-so-challenging part of a child’s life when they start to completely flip their lids whenever Mom’s not around.

The thought process, it would appear is one of…

  • Mommy’s not in the
  • Therefore, Mommy is somewhere
  • I would prefer to be there with
  • Make that happen, or mark my words, I shall raise the most unimaginable of And those ruckuses leave us, as parents, to wonder, “Am I doing something wrong?

After all, a well-adjusted child should probably feel reasonably safe when they’re separated from their parents for a little while, shouldn’t they? I mean, Beth from the office says her baby is perfectly content being left with her sitter, even overnight. And that one mom in your Facebook group said that her baby will happily play by herself for hours at a time, and actually takes her toys to her room occasionally in order to get a little ‘me’ time.”

About Separation Anxiety: Two things to keep in mind.

First, never compare yourself, or your child, to the mothers and babies described in the parenting groups on social media. Much like everything else on Facebook and Instagram, these experiences are almost always conveyed through the rosiest of lenses.

And second, separation anxiety is completely normal, expected, and a sign of a healthy attachment between parent and child.

So what is it, exactly?

Separation anxiety typically starts to occur around 6-8 months of age, when your little one starts to realize that things continue to exist, even when they’re not in sight. It’s a cognitive milestone known as “object permanence” which is defined as, “the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed.”

In other words, out of sight no longer means out of mind.

So as your baby begins to grasp this concept, they realize that if you, their favorite person in the whole world, are not there, you’re elsewhere. And, hey, wait a minute. If that’s the case, then you might not be coming back.

It’s kind of fascinating when you think about it, but it’s also a little heartbreaking. This realization, for a baby, is obviously cause for full-blown panic. The thought of a parent leaving and not returning causes anxiety in most grown-ups I know, so you can hardly expect an infant to take it with great decorum.

Anyways, that’s what happens in your little one’s brain when they suddenly start having a fit every time you leave the room. It’s normal, it’s natural, and it’s a sign that your little one is learning, and that they have a secure attachment to their parent. Awesome.

But, as many of us know, it also means that leaving them with a sitter or dropping them off at day care can be an absolute horror show.

But what we really want to know, or at least what I really wanted to know when it happened with my children, isn’t “What’s causing this?” What I wanted to know was, “How do I prevent it?”

Well, the truth is, you probably wouldn’t want to if you could. I mean, really, wouldn’t you be just a little devastated if you left your child with a stranger and they were just completely OK with it? “Bye Mom! See you at dinner!

Don’t worry about me. You guys have fun!”

I’m guessing that would actually be significantly more troubling than some tears and howling.

But we obviously want to keep things at a happy medium, and if you’re struggling with a child who’s pitching an absolute fit every time you try to run an errand or head out for date night, I’ve got some suggestions to take the edge off until this phase runs its course.

1.    Lead by Example

Your little one follows your cues, so if you’re not willing to let her out of your sight, they probably, albeit un- consciously, feel like they’re not safe if you’re not in the room. So designate a room where they can explore a little and play without your direct supervision. It’s a small adjustment, but it has a tremendous effect.

2.    Don’t Avoid It

Learning about separation and reunion is an important milestone, so don’t just take the path of least resistance and stay with your child 24/7 until they’re seven years old. (It happens. Believe me.) Let them know that it’s okay for them to get upset when you leave and reassure them that you’ll always come back when you do. If there are some tears around it, that’s alright. This is an important concept that they need to get on board with.

3.    Start Slow

Once your little one has started to demonstrate the understanding that they’ll be spending some time with someone besides a parent, make it a short outing. Don’t plan on dinner and a movie or an overnighter for the first few attempts.

4.    Start With Someone Familiar

Kids typically do a little better being left with a grandparent or family friend who they’ve already spent some time with, and who they’ve grown to trust a little, so call in a favor, put some wine in the fridge, and plan to spend at least an hour away from the house for the first few attempts.

5.    Stick Around for a While

After your sitter, parent, friend, or whoever is watching your little one arrives, plan to hang around for a half hour or so. Seeing that this is someone you’re familiar with will go a long way in reassuring your child that they’re “good people” and worthy of their trust.

6.    Face the Music

Many of us have, at least once, attempted to distract our toddlers and then sneak out the door without saying goodbye. After all, it’s the goodbye that provokes the reaction, right? But even if it provokes some tears, it’s important for your child to understand that you’re going to leave sometimes, and that you’ll be back when you say you will.

7.    Establish a Routine

Much like bedtime, a solid, predictable goodbye routine helps your little one recognize and accept the situation. A set number of kisses and hugs, a memorable key phrase, and a clear indication of when you’ll be back should be just the right balance of short and reassuring.

8.    Speak in Terms They’ll Understand

Instead of telling them how long you’ll be gone, tell them when you’ll be back in regards to their schedule. After nap time, before bed, after dinner, before bath time, and so on.

Nothing is going to prevent your child from getting a little bit upset when you leave, (And as I said before, thank the stars for that, because if they didn’t, oh your poor heart,) but you can definitely keep the fuss to a minimum.

Now, I should add here that these techniques are suggested for kids who are dealing with ordinary, everyday separation anxiety. There is also a condition called Separation Anxiety Disorder which is obviously more serious and warrants a trip to your pediatrician if you suspect your little one might be afflicted with it.

But for run-of-the-mill fit-pitching when you try to leave the house for an hour or two, these tips should go a long way towards remedying the problem. Be consistent, supportive, assertive, and calm. Before long, your child will understand the concept of you leaving and coming back.

In fact, this concept that will also come in handy when you start to leave them alone in high school.

“I’m leaving for the night, but rest assured, I’m coming back. So you just remember that before you invite your rowdy friends over.”

But until then, if you feel like your little one’s separation anxiety has led to some not so great sleep habits…I’m here to help.  A FREE Sleep Assessment call is just a click away.  SCHEDULE A CALL WITH JENNIFER

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5 Ways Parents Sabotage Their Baby’s Sleep

Sleep-Sabotage

Your baby’s first year is typically marked by a blur of amazing milestones, and a healthy sleep routine is often the most difficult to master. Many parents are often surprised to find that they are often the cause behind their little one’s sleep difficulties. Today I’m going to share five ways parents unintentionally sabotage their little one’s restful sleep routine.

 

Don’t Be a Night Owl

With many parents working long hours, it can be tempting to keep little ones up late. Many parents will push back baby’s bedtime in order to spend a little more time with him/her, with some parents going so far as to wake their little one to fit in a snuggle. It can be tempting to push back bedtime, but you and your baby will be happier when you’re all well rested. Set an early bedtime and enforce it nightly.

Set a Routine…and stick to it

An integral part of your baby’s sleep patterns is teaching him/her when to sleep. By setting a sleep routine, your baby will know what to do and when to do it; this goes for naps and bedtime. Instead of hoping your baby will master the art of expecting the unexpected, set a sleep routine that leaves out the guesswork. Your routine can be as simple as setting bathtime for six o’clock each night, and running through a familiar BATH-BOTTLE/BREAST-BOOK-BED sequence. By six-thirty, your baby knows that it is time to sleep.

Help Your Baby To Peaceful Sleep
Help Your Baby To Peaceful Sleep

Don’t turn ON the lights!

Newborn and infant nights are marked with feedings and diaper changes, but those sleep interruptions don’t have to last an hour or more. The fewer stimuli you present during the night, the quicker your little one will fall back into a restful sleep.

No Midnight Dance Parties

It can be tempting to rock, bounce, walk, sway, and cajole your baby, in an effort to get him/her back to sleep in the middle of the night. Not only do some of these actions stimulate your baby into a more wakeful state, but you’re also sabotaging your little one’s ability to learn how to soothe him/herself back to sleep. Treat sleep like any other skill you practice with your baby during his/her first year; learning to sleep is a skill just as important as learning how to eat from a spoon, grasping objects, or even crawling. Save the dance parties for daylight hours.

Save the Helicopter for Flying

As tempting and instinctual as it is to rush to your infant’s crib at the sound of every mewl or whimper, try to give your little one time to soothe him/herself. Sleep is a skill, and babies need the time to learn how to effortlessly glide from one sleep cycle to the next. When parents rush in at the slightest peep, they are unintentionally disrupting a learning process [that adults take for granted]. When you hear your baby stir in the night, pause for a couple of minutes to allow your little one to soothe him/herself into the next sleep cycle.   As parents, we’re attuned to the needs of our children, and fostering healthy sleep habits is of the utmost importance. If your nights are disrupted, or bedtime is a battle, remember these five tips and get back on the road to restfulness.   Are you ‘0’ for ‘5’? Keep up the great work! Are you unintentionally sabotaging your little one’s sleep? A few adjustments will get you back on track.  Not sure where to start?  Contact me!   I want to hear from you!

Sleep Problems in Babies May Not Fade with Time Say Researchers

A well rested family is so important for every member of the family. If you little one is not sleeping well at night and waking up frequently, that means that Mommy and Daddy are as well. That’s quite a bit of lost sleep! Why not make it a New Year Resolution to give the gift of sleep to your family.
Let 2014 be the year of Sweet Dreams and Peaceful Nights. Give me a call (267)382-0826 or email me at info@giftofsleepconsulting.com to set up a free 15 minute telephone evaluation if you are worried about sleep problems in babies. I’ll gather some important information from you and we can dedicate ourselves to creating a customized plan tailor made to help give the gift of sleep to your little one. baby sleep sack

 

Sleep Problems in Babies May Not Fade with Time Say Researchers : Growing Your Baby#.UOTUj45ghRk.facebook.

Being The Baby Whisperer – Why I Do What I Do

Sleep is one of the most precious things in life to me.  Right up there with family, friends and my love of anything Disney.  You don’t realize how much you appreciate and love it until it’s gone and you are struggling every single day to get it back.

I’ve always been a great sleeper.  My mother will attest to this fact.  She said I was sleeping long stretches (10:00pm – 5:00am) at two weeks of age!  That is not the norm for newborn baby sleep, so she was one lucky mommy!  In college I even tried to schedule my classes to begin no early than 9:00am and even then I felt like that was too early.  A self proclaimed “Night Owl,” I was commonly found sleeping in to at least 10:30 – 11:00am on weekends up into my early 30’s.  But one day that all changed.  The day I became a mom.

Being The Baby Whisperer – How Did It Start?

Being The Baby Whisperer
Being The Baby Whisperer

When I became pregnant, I was excited (if not a little bit nervous) to become a parent.  I felt I was ready for the most part and that any anxiety I felt was just due to being nervous.  And early on a warm August morning, my life changed in a wonderful way.  I became a mommy to a beautiful 7lbs 1oz. baby girl I named Elizabeth.  And there ended my long established love affair with sleep.  That’s when healthy sleep habits took a back seat.

Like most new parents, I was thrust full speed into parenthood with one of the most important parts.  Feeding and bonding with your little bundle of joy.  Of course knowing I wanted to give my baby the best start in life I decided to breastfeed my little girl.  Right from the start I was diligent to try and feed her at least every two hours around the clock from the moment she was born to stimulate my milk production and help her gain weight.  While I was utterly exhausted from childbirth, I was diligently following the instructions during breastfeeding class to the letter.  In the end I ended up hardly sleeping during my hospital stay.  When we came home from the hospital my sleepless nights continued.

Being The Baby Whisperer – How Not Getting Sleep Started My Career

Without going into all of the lengthy details, my dear sweet little Lizzy did not sleep more than 2 – 3 hours at a time for the first few months of her life.  And that was even after we had to switch to formula due to my inability to produce breast milk (but that’s a story for another blog post).  I was told by many of friend that she would most likely start sleeping longer stretches at night around 6 weeks of age…just as all of their children had.  Well, 6 weeks came and went and there was no change or lengthening of sleep.  And as a result, I began to sleep less and less.

One day I reached my breaking point.  I was so sleep deprived that I no longer was having rational thoughts, I was suffering from high anxiety, exhausted both mentally and physically and no longer taking an active interest in life.  In clinical terms, I was suffering from post partum depression and I needed help.  Thankfully, help came via some wonderful healthcare professionals and a very supportive husband and family.  Funny enough, the first piece of advice I was given was for me to improve my sleep habits.  “You need to get more sleep,” one doctor stated.  My initial (and somewhat sarcastic) thought was well, BRILLIANT…why didn’t I think of that.  If I could have found a way to get a couple of hours of decent sleep a day I wouldn’t have found myself in a dire situation such as sleep deprived.  Where do I look for help?

Help arrived in the form of a friend who suggested that I research the many different books available offering advice on how to get your baby to sleep through the night.  So I fired up my computer and began my research.  I never knew there were so many books available for this topic and all of them stated they had the best method.  I quickly became overwhelmed until I stumbled upon a book and method that made sense and changed my life.  I found a way to encourage my daughter to sleep longer stretches at night.  The first night she slept 5 hours straight I cried.  And this time they were tears of joy.

Being The Baby Whisperer – Better Sleep = Better Wife = Better Mom

And slowly, I reconnected and rekindled my love affair with the sleep I so dearly missed.  I became a better wife and mother to my baby and began to look forward to the next day.  I felt empowered to help every new mommy I met to solve their own sleep problems.  I’d shout it from every rooftop and playground if I could.  Without knowing it, I began my path to a new career that I love.

Fast forward 3 years and another daughter (awesome sleeper I might add) later, I connected with my mentor Dana Obleman and began my extensive training and certification program to become an Infant and Toddler Sleep Consultant.    The best decision I could have ever made.

Being The Baby Whisperer – From Sleep Deprived to Sleep Revived

I help change lives, I help families regain a healthy dynamic and spouses reconnect.  I help guide families from sleep deprived to sleep revived.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  To have a chance to touch lives and make a difference in a sleep deprived mommy’s life by working one on one with her to achieve healthy sleep habits for her child/children warms my heart.

In closing, I’d like to share a frequently asked question and answer to help weary parents everywhere…

Q: How much sleep does my child need?

A: More than you might think!  Many parents are quite surprised to learn that children need anywhere between 12 and 18 hours of sleep depending on their age.  Below is the guideline for specific age groups:

  • 0 – 3 months of age: 16 – 18 hours per day
  • 3-6 months of age:  approximately 15 hours per day
  • 6 – 12 months of age: approximately 14 hours per day
  • 12 months of age and beyond:  12 – 13 hours per day (and that is through elementary school)

A good night’s sleep gives children the energy they need to wake up each morning feeling happy, refreshed and ready to learn.

If your little one is not getting the sleep they need to be engaged and energetic, be proactive and find solutions to help correct unhealthy sleep habits.