Separation Anxiety

Around ten months of age, you may notice that you're child becomes much more "clutchy" about leaving you. When you're out of her sight, she'll know you're somewhere but not with her, and this will cause her great distress. She'll have so little sense of time that she won't know when, or even whether, you'll be coming back. Once she gets a little older, her memory of past experiences with you will comfort her when you're gone, and she'll be able to anticipate a reunion.

But for now she's only aware of the present, so every time you leave her sight, even to go to the next room, she'll fuss and cry. When you leave her with someone else she may scream as though her heart will break. At bedtime she'll refuse to leave you to go to sleep, and then she may wake up searching for you in the middle of the night. This developmental stage is known as separation anxiety. It can be a tough stage for both of you but it also marks the dawning realization for your child that each object is unique and permanent, and that there's only one of you.

Separation anxiety usually peaks between ten and eighteen months, and then fades during the last half of the second year. In some ways, this phase of your child's emotional development will be especially tender for both of you, while in others it will be painful. After all, her desire to be with you is a sign of her attachment to her first and greatest love, namely you. The intensity of her feeling as she hurtles into your arms is irresistible, especially when you realize that no one, including your child herself, will ever again think you are quite as perfect as she does at this age. On the other hand, you may feel suffocated by her constant clinging, while experiencing guilt whenever you leave her crying for you. Fortunately, this emotional roller coaster eventually will subside along with her separation anxiety.

If your child has a strong, healthy attachment to you, her separation anxiety probably will occur earlier than in other babies, and she'll pass through it more quickly. Instead of resenting her possessiveness during these months, maintain as much warmth and good humor as you can. Through your actions, you're showing her how to express and return love. This is the emotional base she'll rely on in years to come. The following suggestions may help ease separation anxiety.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics