Our Experiences with Infant and Toddler Separation Anxiety

January 14, 2020 Comments Off on Our Experiences with Infant and Toddler Separation Anxiety

I’ve talked about it for years, but have never written a blog post about it. My daughter showed signs of separation anxiety from a very young age. She didn’t wait the usual six to nine months to start developing it. Any time I was out of her line of vision, she would cry. She had a lot of stranger anxiety as well. She didn’t like people looking at her and letting them hold her was completely out of the question. We didn’t have outside babysitters, and my mom was pretty much the only person who I could leave her with without her having a meltdown.

Mommy and Me classes went well for us.

From infancy until three years old, we took a number of mommy and me classes. Those seemed to go well, because I was always in the room with her. However, I became more concerned around the time she was two and a half. We took a mommy and me class where I was supposed to spend half the class with the other moms participating in “parent education”. My daughter was supposed to spend that time with her nursery school teacher and the other children. She cried and protested. She would run after me, and eventually she ended up staying in the room with me and the other moms. She was pretty much the only child in her class that was having these issues. Luckily, the class was laid back, and it wasn’t a problem if she stayed with me. Yet, in the back of my mind, I was worried how things would play out when I eventually left her alone at school.

Her first 3’s class. Her teacher would send me photos to assure me that K was okay after drop off.

She did well in the Montessori environment.

The following Fall term, I started her in a half day 3’s class at a local Montessori school. This was our first major run-in with the crying and sadness of separation and school drop-offs. I had done some research on how to reduce separation anxiety. Everything I read said, “Make drop off drama-free. A quick hug and kiss. Don’t look sad. Leave quickly.” Also, reiterate to your child that you will be back to pick them up. I tried my best to follow these steps. I was mostly unsuccessful. Regardless of how quickly I tried to leave, she was still upset. I also think she was too young to understand the concept of “Mommy will be back.” We lucked out and had an incredible school director who took a lot of extra time and care with my daughter. She was empathetic but firm. My daughter seemed to do well under her care.

Fast forward to Fall of Pre-K. We moved to a different city, and made the tough decision to leave our beloved preschool. It was really hard because we had grown to know everyone at her old school really well. Now we had to transition to a completely new school where my daughter wouldn’t know anyone. Coupled with the inevitable stresses of moving, I was really worried how it would all play out.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. The first week or two were the worst. Her teacher reassured me that she eventually stopped crying – usually within a few minutes of drop off. The first day though, I think she cried for about an hour. The broke my heart!

It took months before we had consistent tear-free school drop-offs. I learned a lot during those trying months. It went on for so long, I was sure that something was wrong. Most children will feel a bit clingy or scared to leave their parents at some point, but this felt extreme. Something HAD to be wrong, right? I consulted a child therapist who reassured me that nothing was wrong. It was something difficult we had to work through, but we were still within the “normal” range of toddler separation anxiety.

Kindergarten has been a time of amazing growth!

I’m happy to report that K is currently a well adjusted and happy (most of the time) kindergartener. I’m not sure if separation anxiety is a thing of the past or if it will come back again to varying degrees. I do know that while we were in the trenches of separation anxiety I cherished every bit of support I got from fellow parents with children who have faced similar issues.

I am going to follow up this post with another where I outline separation anxiety tips and tricks that worked best for us. Thank you for following along!

January 6, 2020