Around 6 months of age, some babies start to experience separation anxiety. When your baby clings or cries as you leave, parting can be hard on both of you. Don’t worry: they’ll get through it. In fact, most babies stop crying within 5 minutes or so after a parent’s departure.
Separation anxiety is a sign of cognitive and social-emotional growth, and it can look different for every child. It’s a normal developmental response as babies become more aware of the world.
Typically, separation anxiety ebbs and flows. It starts in infancy, continues through early childhood, and sometimes extends into adolescence. Dealing with separation anxiety is a long haul, and taking steps to address it now may help down the road.
Right now, the key is to give your baby the tools to manage their feelings and help them trust that you will return—and that they will be safe until you do.
Here’s how you can make the separation easier on them—and on yourself:
Create a quick parting ritual
Sneaking out may seem like the least disruptive option, but it’s better to say goodbye, even if you’ll only be gone a brief time.
- Give your child your full attention and tell them that you’re leaving.
- Smile reassuringly as you give them a kiss or hug and say, ‘I love you’ and ‘Goodbye!’
- Explain when you’ll be back, then head out the door.
Keep your goodbye ritual short and sweet. Your baby is taking their cues from you, so try to stay calm and upbeat. Don’t linger if they get upset—it will only prolong their distress.
Provide a positive distraction
Ask your baby’s caregiver to try engaging your child in a unique activity. They can:
- Play with a particular toy that only comes out when you leave.
- Sing a song reserved exclusively for your departures.
- Look at a photo album with images of you and your baby together.
- Wave from the window as you leave, then point out other exciting objects outside.
- Go on a fun adventure, such as a walk in the park. Be sure to say your goodbyes and have them leave before you do.
Shower your baby with positive attention
When you return, give your baby lots of love and affection and tell them how happy you are to be back. Building a secure attachment can help ease separation anxiety over time. Eventually, your baby will begin to trust that they’re safe with someone other than you and that you always come back.