By the time your baby is aged eight months and up, you may notice that she is like a character straight out of the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One moment she is the affectionate, outgoing and full of smiles Miss Wonderful in your home, and another moment, she is Terry terrible who’s anxious, clingy, cranky and easily scared when around things and people that are unfamiliar or new.
Don’t be dismayed. This definitely does not mean that your kid will develop multiple personalities. It’s just that she has developed a skill that enables her to distinguish familiar from unfamiliar situations.
Anxiety around strangers and when she does not see you is a normal milestone for babies around this age and should never be a cause for worry. While she has become a little too clingy and wails when you leave her or when someone she’s not familiar with approaches her, there are ways you can do to help her cope with separation anxiety.
First tip: Don’t leave your baby who’s not yet napped or who’s hungry. A baby is more vulnerable to separation anxiety when she’s hungry and tired. If you plan to go out, be sure she’s taken her nap and is full.
Second tip: Play peek-a-boo with your kid to teach her about object permanence. This means that when Mommy or Daddy went away, they’re not gone and will still come back. Do a variation of this game by playing peek-a-boo with her toys. Try hiding her Baby Einstein Puppet under a pillow or behind the couch and surprise your kid by making it reappear with a cheery shout of peek-a-boo! This will teach your kid that objects still exist even if they are out of our sight and that when Mommy or Daddy goes out, there’s nothing for baby to be scared about because they’ll return.
Third tip: Practice short sessions of separation at home. For example, leave your baby alone in a child-proof room with a couple of safe toys for a few minutes. If she cries, don’t hastily come back to comfort her. Let her comfort herself for a while and then come back when she’s calmed down. If you immediately rush to her side at her first cry, she will get the idea that that is the way to call on you. When she sees that being alone is not so bad after all, she will be able to cope with separation anxiety more easily.
Fourth tip: When you leave, don’t try to escape through the back door. Be honest to your kid by telling her that you’ll be gone for a few hours and say goodbye. Always reassure your kid that you’ll be back by showering her with lots of hugs and kisses. If you constantly disappear suddenly, this will only do more harm than good and cause more anxiety on her. However, if she learns to trust and be confident that you’ll be back, she won’t have a hard time with you leaving.
Fifth tip: Protect her from strangers. If you’re kid is anxious about a stranger pinching her cheek, admiring how cute she is, thank the person for the compliment but also politely tell her that your kid is uncomfortable around strangers.
Even though a child’s world may seem so carefree with no problems and only play and games to work on, a kid also goes through some hard times. Because they’re helpless and only depend on their parents, they have this fear of losing that comfortable shoulder to rely on. That’s why it is important that you help your kid overcome separation anxiety.
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