How You Can Help Your Toddler With Separation Anxiety

I work with many toddlers and young children who struggle to go to sleep by themselves and often wake in the night needing the comfort of the presence of a parent to be able to go back to sleep again. Often these situations are created by a toddler or young child suffering from separation anxiety which can cause them to struggle to be away from parents or caregivers.

When Does Separation Anxiety Usually Occur?

Separation anxiety often starts around 9 – 12 months of age once your baby has developed object permanence and begins to be more aware of their surroundings and your presence, or in this case absence, in them. However, separation anxiety can also develop later throughout the toddler years, especially in new situations such as starting new childcare or even starting school.

What Is Special Time and How It Can Help My Toddler?

When I am helping clients with a toddler or young child struggling with separation anxiety, I often suggest that they start doing something I call Special Time with their child. This is a time that you set aside each day to spend time one on one, purely focussed on that child. It doesn’t need to be for long –  10 or 15 minutes a day is fine. The main thing is that you put aside all distractions and spend time with just you and your little one. If they are older, then give them the option as to what you do during this time – I’d probably let them pick from two things rather than giving them free rein as who knows what you would end up doing! It doesn’t matter what you do during this time, just that you spend time with your child – make sure they know that it’s going to be happening each day, and it will give them something to look forward to.

How Will This Help With Separation Anxiety?

Spending this quality, focussed time with your wee one helps them feel more secure about their relationship with you. It helps them feel really connected to you and so more safe and settled when away from you. Look on them as having a “love tank” that needs to be filled each day to feel secure and happy, and this is a way of keeping the tank filled without needing to do it overnight as well! A more secure and settled child will feel more comfortable falling asleep by themselves and will be less likely to need you to help them if they wake in the night, leading to more sleep for everyone!