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This can happen at different stages for different developmental reasons; during the toddler years separation anxiety can come and as they walk the tightrope between reassurance and independence. It affects children in different ways and can be amplified if other changes occur that give rise to feelings of instability; moving house or a new sibling for example.

See you later alligator!

You can help ease your child’s anxiety by saying goodbye when you leave. It can be tempting to sneak off unseen but this compounds the fear your child has that you may disappear the minute you are out of sight. Always explain that you will be back and try to present a calm, reassuring stance even if watching their anguish upsets you. If your anxious toddler sees you distressed, you will be validating their fears that something is wrong. Remain upbeat and leave on a happy sign off; the classic ‘see you later alligator, in a while crocodile’ can be useful.

Refraining from explaining

Explaining what you will be doing while you are absent and what activities your child will be doing (and who with) can help bring clarity to your departure. Your child’s understanding of events far exceeds their ability to communicate them at the moment so talking to them in advance will help prep their expectations.

Blankets & bears

Comforters can bring solace to tots seeking reassurance so ensure they are to hand when you wave goodbye. Try to manage comings and goings calmly, giving everyone time to go at a steady pace rather than running late and bolting before the babysitter has taken their coat off! Distraction works well so ask the caregiver covering your shift to enthusiastically snuggle down for stories or a puzzle.

Separation is an inevitable part of growing up, as is the anxiety that can accompany it. However, if your toddler is so needy of your time that you struggle to cross the room, you may need to employ a little distance-discipline. Be matter of fact and calm as you leave to contend to your needs; you need to be realistic in your reassurance and give yourself permission to get things done without feeling guilty.

You can help support your child’s educational journey long before they step foot into a formal scholarly setting. Toddlers have a huge thirst for knowledge and are learning every day by asking (endless!) questions, observing their environment and practicing new skills.

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