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Strategies for Coping With Your Toddler's Separation Anxiety

How To Help Your Toddler Cope With Separation Anxiety

If your toddler screams "No, no, no, no, no!" as you try to duck out for groceries or head off to work, it could be due to separation anxiety, which occurs when a child exhibits extreme stress when one or both parents leave. It usually begins after a child starts to walk, and that's no coincidence -- with their newfound freedom comes newfound fears. It generally peaks between 15 and 30 months.

More prevalent in cautious or shy children who have a hard time with change, separation anxiety typically occurs with a transition in the caregiver. It can also be brought on or intensified by different circumstances such as a new home, new school, or new sibling.

Like all childhood stages, separation anxiety will soon be outgrown, but what to do in the meantime? In "What to Expect: The Toddler Years," the authors offer several strategies for coping.

  • Play hide and seek with your child. This teaches her that you always return.
  • Start with short-term separations, leaving the house for brief periods of time.
  • Encourage the use of a transitional object -- stuffed bear or blanket -- when you leave.
  • Don't ever sneak out of the house or leave without saying good-bye.
  • Be patient. Most children get over separation anxiety by age 3.
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