At some stage or another (sometimes several times during early childhood) you may notice that your toddler is clingier than usual, and seems to want you within eyeshot at all times. It’s quite normal for very young children to go through phases like this, and it’s known as separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety can happen at any time from six months onwards, as this is when your baby begins to realise that you, as his mum, are a separate person to him. It’s also when he starts to realise that this means that you could leave.
As he grows, and finds his feet, so to speak, testing his own independence, he still needs you to be there for him. In some children, that leads to extreme neediness, while others seem to cope better.
The good news is that sometime between the ages of one and a half and three years, he should outgrow his separation anxiety completely.
In the mean time, there are a few things you can do to make it a little easier:
First, make sure that you wave goodbye, and tell him when you are leaving. It’s even scarier for your child if he suddenly realises that you have disappeared!
If you are feeling bad, or sad, about leaving your toddler for a while, try to avoid showing it – children pick up on your mood!
Make sure that you tell your child where you are going, and how long you will be. Even if he can’t talk all that much yet, you can be sure he’ll understand – just keep your language simple!
If your child doesn’t already have a transitional object, like a teddy bear or a blanket, give him one. This ‘security substitute’ can make it easier when you’re not around.
Lastly, try training your child. If you leave him alone for short periods at first, and then return, he will start to understand that when mummy leaves, she always comes back!