This is what we see any time we try to leave Annie:
Arms outstretched, head back, mouth turned down, brow furrowed, with frantic pleas to be picked up up UP UPPA! The separation anxiety is strong in this one.
We’ve tried a few different tactics to deal with her separation issues. Sometimes one of us will distract Annie so the other can slip out the front door. This only works about 50% of the time because freaking Rigby goes crazy and Annie has learned that means someone is going out the front door. Sometimes we’ll sneak out the back door, which usually results in Annie eventually realizing someone is missing, and then she spends the rest of the time walking around the house going, “Daaaaadaaaaa, where arrrrrre yooooooou?” And then, of course, there is the regular blatant leaving, which results in an epic crying child for the remaining parent.
And this is when she still has one of us at home with her! When Mike and I go out together we always leave her with my parents, which still results in a melt-down but they are so relaxed about the whole thing that the situation isn’t as stressful as it could be. On the other hand, we can’t leave her ANYWHERE else. No gym daycare or anything like that. The last few times I tried to leave her at the gym daycare she had such massive freak-outs that the women in charge weren’t comfortable with me leaving her. I couldn’t blame them.
I keep waiting for these separation fits to get better, but they seem to be getting more intense and I don’t know what to do about it. I have started bringing her along on outings and errands, or just skipping them all-together, anything to avoid watching her little heart break. And I know that’s exaggerating, but for example: a couple evenings ago, we ran out of milk, so I said I’d run to the grocery store. Annie’s dinner was almost ready so it wasn’t a good time to just bring her along. She saw me walking to the door and sprinted after me saying, “Mama, nooo! Annie go! PUH-LEASE Mama! PUH-LEEEEEASSSSE!” I gave her a hug and a kiss and told her I’d be right back, and then I walked out the door to her sobbing. When I came back ten minutes later, she was still sobbing. I took her from Mike and she hugged me and then said tearfully, “Mama STAY.”
I AM NOT MADE OF STONE YOU GUYS! But I guess I have to be.
Who am I kidding, I’m never leaving my house without her again.
Honestly, I would feel the same way as you do. They outgrow it and someday she won’t want to necessarily go anywhere with you (or she may not be that kind of teen, mine isn’t) so if it’s possible, sure take her with you! That tearful, “Mama, STAY” would melt any heart!
I have the exact same issue. Only it’s just with me – my husband can leave any time he wants. It’s actually gotten so bad that if I go to another PART OF THE HOUSE – he melts down because he can’t find me.
And my kid is nearly 3. I only hope they outgrow it soon!
Time for tough love. Annie understands the game of peek-a-boo, right? She knows you’re under there somewhere…At some point in the near future, she will get that you go and come back…so every time you must leave, tell her Mommy and Daddy will be back…but don’t fall into the take her everywhere with you thing to avoid the stress of her musings- Otherwise the Spohrs will be potting in a call to Jo the Supernanny…. Kids manipulate as long as you let them…
Annie is way past the age normally associated with separation anxiety. What it sounds more like is her throwing fits because she is not getting her way. Once you think of it that way it is easier to do what needs go be done.
Stop sneaking out of the house. Teach her the skills she needs to transition to being without you. Prepare her ahead of time. As in after breakfast Daddy is going to work and Annie is going to stay home with Mommy and Rigby and play.
When the time comes tell her you are leaving. Give her a kiss, say goodbye and walk out the door. Don’t keep going back and forth. She will learn and accept it just like she learned to sleep in her bed, if you let her.
Do you have any sort of legit source for the claim that Annie is way past the age normally associated with separation anxiety? She’s only 2 years old. I’m not a parent, but I’ve been nannying/babysitting for over ten years and none of my young charges started experiencing this same kind of separation anxiety *until* they were about 2 years old.
What? I see kids who have problems separating from their parents in preschool and in early elementary school. How do you figure she’s “way past the age normally associated with separation anxiety”?
Heather, I agree that the sneaking may not be helping the situation, and drawing out a farewell because of her reaction is probably reinforcing it, too. But in my experience it’s harder for some kids than others. Sometimes parents do everything “right” and it’s still hard.
I think a quick goodbye without a lot of build up is the way to go. That, coupled with a short happy celebration upon your return will probably get the best results.
It’s heartbreaking, though. And it’s hard.
Heather P says:
Annie is not “past the age”. My son was about her age when he had separation anxiety really bad. Besides, we need to stop labeling such times in development as being a specific age, right down to the month…it’s ridiculous. These rules are just made to make other moms feel bad about their kids development, when they don’t need to. Every child is so different. My son is now 3.5, and he is fine. It is just a phase, and it will pass. It’s just very frustrating along the way. I do agree that a quick kiss and goodbye is the way to go, it does end up working, but again, it’s not easy to watch. Be strong, you will get through it.
At the NAEYC preschool my daughter attends, we were informed that children for through periods of this and that it is VERY typical.
S has been in preschool (I am sure someone will find it necessary to correct me here and tell me it’s really “just” daycare, but whatevs) for about 18 months now, and we still have episodes here and there. I have been reassured by professionals with advanced degrees in child development that this is VERY normal. My 10-year veteran lead teacher has concurred that she sees this every year, all the time, and can almost predict when it will happen. I will say that separating at school has helped overall, because she is distracted by other kids and because school is a fun place for her.
I am kind of surprised that anyone thinks 2 is out of the range…I still get S/A once in a blue, and I am nearly 40. I think it is human and normal to not be ok all the time with saying goodbye. No matter how old you are.
That should read: “we were informed that children go through this over and over for periods of time sometimes and it is VERY typical.”
Also, my S is a month older than Annie, and we are dealing with similar from time to time.
One thing we do is that when we leave her with a sitter, we have special books/puzzles that she LOVES that we reserve for those times. It helps.
Hope things get better. It is so hard to leave a crying child, and I am sure it breaks your heart, Heather. Big hugs.
I won’t correct you I work in child care we don’t call it daycare because we don’t take care of days ! LOL I believe you that it is preschool, I watch those preschoolers learn a great deal through tthe year! I see it in the Kindergarten classroom, the school age classroom after summer vacation.
Ive always been told (and heard) to make a big deal out of coming back. When you leave tell her “Annie, Mommy and Daddy will be back soon. We will be BACK soon with a hug.” Then when you get back be excited and remind her that you said you would be back… WITH A BIGGGG HUGGGGGGG.
My daughter is about 2 weeks older than Annie and had similar bouts of separation anxiety. More than my son ever had, he’s now 4. I attribute this, at least in part, to the fact that I worked full time when my son was an infant and toddler and he was in day care. My daughter on the other hand is spending much more time with me now that I’m not working and so I think she’s just unaccustomed to anyone else. I enrolled her in day care 3 days a week, just to get her used to other people and other kids. She’s coming around. Also, I had read when my son was a toddler never to sneak out when leaving the house. Toddler brains gets confused and think people just disappear. This sort of made sense to me, so I always told him when I was going and when I’d be back. He still threw the occasional fit but it was much better, and I felt better about it. So, I say, tell her when you’re leaving, stay strong, know that’s she’s okay. It is portant for kids to learn to be independent of their parents. Good luck!
I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but if you try to leave, she cries/throws a fit, you relent and take her with you, she is learning that she gets her way by crying. And that is so not pretty as they get older
I would stop sneaking out asap. I wonder if that is part of the reason that she hates it when you leave? From her point of view, one minute you are there, and then you pretty much disappear into thin air. That’s got to be pretty freaky. But if you said “bye, Annie. Mama loves you and I’ll be back soon, You and Bampa/Daddy/Grandma will have so much fun coloring without me!” or something like that, she might focus on having fun at home instead of being left behind.
Have you heard of Love and Logic? A friend of mine recommended it to me when my oldest (who has the strongest personality I have ever met) was a toddler. Those cds saved my sanity. Their stuff makes sense, and it just works. We still use the stuff we learned from them to this day (my oldest is 12). I bet they have some great suggestions for this exact situation.
They had a Love & Logic class at my kids’ old daycare once. I was unable to attend, but really wish I had. All the teachers went and I picked up on some of the phrases they were using and even that small bit has helped with some behavior issues.
I agree with other posters to stop sneaking out. I have done that before too, but it really really does help to just tell Annie, like you would an adult “Hey, Annie, I’m going to the grocery store because we are out of milk. Daddy will stay home with you. I will be back before you’re done with your dinner” Hug, kiss, and leave. Will that make her not throw a fit? Probably not. At least not the first few times, or even for a few weeks, but eventually she’ll learn to trust that when you guys leave, you do come back.
Also, when your parents watch her you might try having them pick her up so SHE is the one leaving you guys. Same thing though, explain to her where she’s going, who she will be with and what she will be doing and that you’ll see her when she comes back. (all with a happy positive attitude).
My oldest rarely had issues when we left, but my youngest (she’s 5 1/2) did and still does from time to time (more so if she’s tired). Hang in there!
Lynn from For Love or Funny says:
Oddly enough, that’s what my kids see me do when they leave to go to school… I guess I should save my separation anxiety issues until they go to college.
I think that sneaking out is making Annie’s anxiety worse. I think more frequent, short trips would be helpful so that she really does see that you will come back.
I also think that it is a good idea to take Annie with you sometimes. Just like you need to get out of the house, so does she. And the only way to teach proper behavior outside of the home is to do it.
I agree that the smeaking out may be contributing to the issue (as tempting as it is to make a break while the coast is clear!!). I also agree with the other comments about making a big deal about when you will be back. I would ‘rehearse’ the script even when you go into another room for a minute…tell her you’ll be right back and then “Here I am!”. Start with that and then increase the time you are gone — go outside for 10 minutes while she is with Mike. He can reassure her that mommy will be back in a few minutes. It won’t take long for her to be able to trust that she isn’t being left behind. Good luck!!
I wish I had wisdom but all I’ve got is the me too. My daughter is 7 and she’s still a stone cold freak when her father departs her presence (even to get the trash can! God!) without careful lead up and pep talks. It drives me insane.
This too shall pass but I do have to agree with Jen, if every time she cries & throws a massive fit, she gets to come with you, then she is going to keep that behaviour up. I use to work in a JK/SK class & I was AMAZED how the kids would try to manipulate their parents….AND IT WORKED!!! The kids that cried but the parents just gave them a kiss & said good bye (kept it short & sweet) were more likely to calm down 10 times faster than the ones where the parents also made it a huge fuss…leaving & coming back.
We found any ways the parent who not only left calm but also came back in the same sort of way, lead to the kids acting the same way. When you try to change ANY behaviour, remember it get worse before it gets better – that’s called “EXSTINCTION”.
If I were to give you any advice it would have to be to keep being consitant. Tell her your leaving & if she cries, she cries. When you come home give her another hug – no big deal.
I know it’s difficult Heather. I am for 1 second NOT trying to undermind your struggle. I know how hard it can be but I’ve also seen the flip side.
Good Luck Mama….1 small step at a time!
My daughter was the same way…I got over it and she did too, eventually. No permanent damage My heart didn’t break so much because it got old, I knew she was fine, just being dramatic.
My sister had massive separation anxiety when she was little. Huge fits not just when my mom or dad left the house, but at bedtime (when she had to sleep in a different room from them), at school when she got older, you name it. Like, she was the kid screaming at preschool every day because my mother left her there. And my mom just kept giving in. Like, she brought her home from preschool a lot (in fact, she disenrolled her from 3-year-old pre-school and put her back in when she was 4 because she was so horrendous at 3), she let her sleep in their bed if she threw a big enough tantrum at night, she brought my sister on every conceivable outing (often ones she wanted to do alone, and often with the caveat that ONLY my sister could go, because she’d intended it to be a kid-free outing and, well, one kid was the limit).
And you’d think that she would’ve grown out of this pretty quickly, but she seriously carried on this kind of crap ’till she was 10. It got so severe that she used to call from sleep-overs for my parents to pick her up because she could not function being away from my mom for an entire life. She kept sleeping in their bed almost every night. She missed huge chunks of first grade because she would fake sick during class to come home and be with my mom.
I’m not saying that Annie’ll get that bad. A big part of my sister’s issues were also tied up in the fact my mom was really sick during part of this time. But the fact is, she will learn that if she cries and fits, you’ll give her what she wants – and it could just continue. You don’t want her to be a kid who can’t make it through school without you. Just stop sneaking, stop giving in, and she’ll eventually learn that you’re coming back and it’s not so bad.
Until you get to that glorious day where you can leave her in the gym daycare. Or when she doesn’t want to leave the gym daycare.
There is a typo in that second paragraph: entire night, not life! Though I pride myself on a “true fax” slip (since my sister still essentially lives with my parents at 25…)
She is the cutest darn kid! I can totally understand wanting to stay with her forever, or take her along on everything. BUT, she’s going have to be broken of the habit at some point. I had the same thing with my oldest. Honestly, what you did when you ran to get milk is the best thing for her, although it hurts like heck for you (or Mike if he’s doing the errand). The more it is cemented in her head that you leave and then you come back and all is good, the better, because really, that is what seperation anxiety is all about… the child fears the loved one (parent, grandparent, whatever) isn’t going to come back. Keep up the awesome work and keep posting pics of your ADORABLE little miss! Love reading about her crazy antics!
I have to agree with those who said to stop sneaking out and say “bye” to Annie each time you leave and let her know that you’ll be right back! Start with super short trips (like getting the milk) and slowly increasing the time you’re out. I worked at a daycare in my previous life and it WAS easier with the kids whose parents would say bye and leave. We’d have them watch through the window though to show them that their kid really did calm down after a few minutes. We also had our share of parents that would hang out while their kid threw a fit (and that broke everyone’s hearts) and it would go on and on and on – we were even late leaving for a field trip once because the mom wouldn’t just leave her kid and she spent 30 minutes crying and clinging to mom (she was 6!) and we were going to a kid amusement park! Eventually we talked mom into leaving and as soon as we all got on the bus to leave, the kid was so excited! So, of course do what you think is best, but at age 2, Annie should be able to figure out that you’ll be right back when you say you will be. Good luck!
Totally agree, make sure you say good-bye, then hi when you return. Don’t make it a big deal and soon, it won’t be!
Bribing works for us As in “Mama has to run to the store really quick, but when I get back we will play your favorite cupcake game!” etc. etc. If that alone doesn’t work we throw in “and if you cry for Daddy while I’m gone then we don’t get to play the cupcake game and that will make me so sad”
Surely it goes against every parenting how-to, but it works like a charm! lol
Wow. That sucks. I don’t have experience with kids and separation anxiety, but I do have experience with dogs and separation anxiety. And no haters. I know that Annie isn’t a dog. But I also know that the psychology of operant conditioning (think Pavlov’s dogs) works as well with people as it does with animals. With our dog, what we’d inlay worked was giving him a toy to distract him (usually a Kong with peanut butter in it), then leaving quickly, without a lot of fanfare. And when we come home, it’s the same thing. No big fuss over the dog, just a”yep, we’re home.” It might work for Annie, too. “Annie is going to play with her special toy (or coloring book, or doll, or whatever serves as a good distraction) with daddy while mommy goes to the store.” But don’t make a big deal of your leaving or your coming home. And whoever stays home with her shouldn’t make a big deal out of it, either. Good luck!!!
Jaisa French says:
Going against the grain per usual for me! Take her with you, stay as much as you can. Look at it as she honestly needs you, and needs that time. You might be with her 23 hours out of 24 but maybe that is what you are called to right now. She will not do it forever and it may seem like a mess of no alone time for you. But I honestly feel like when our kids act out or have a ‘phase’ of different behavior and we punish or force them into a place where they are uncomfortable it just worsens the situation. I have two boys 3 & 1. They both deal with issues in their own right, mostly sleep issues. I have learned it is better for us all to hear what they need which is to be near us when they sleep rather than force them into where they are uncomfortable…screaming in their beds while mom and dad stress out downstairs. No I have no slept alone or felt rested in 3 years but I have the rest of my life to rest….. I will not have the rest of my life to nurture these my babies at 3 &1. Also, not sure how it effects you when you are out but I know for me if I know my child is home sobbing I can not even enjoy the darn dinner I worked so hard to get them comfortable so I can go on. Lose-lose. They are upset and I am worrying so I am not enjoying myself anyway. I would have been better ahead to order in LOL.
I am just adding my agreement to stop sneaking out and as hard as is it, let her cry. Although I worked full time, my kids never went to daycare because my mom kept them for me. As a result, I ended up with two kids that wouldn’t stay in the care of anyone except me, their dad and their grandparents. My oldest had a hard time adjusting to starting school, he cried to the point that he had to be taken home, they wouldn’t let him stay. We went through a few weeks but eventually he figured out that he had to go to school, and now he is in second grade and its a non-issue. Last year I decided to put my son in daycare rather than have my mom keep him. He was a couple of months shy of three, and boy was that tough. He did cry when I dropped him off, this went on for weeks, and after a break from school or vacation he would start it all over again. But, my best friend owns the daycare and always let me know that he was fine as soon as I left, as were the other kids. The first week though? He cried almost all day, but it didn’t harm our relationship or him in any way that I can tell. I’m a stay at home mom right now so he is home with me, but he is much easier to leave with others now, and also more open to other people and far more outgoing.
Annie is starting to realize that SHE is in control. The others are right. Don’t sneak. But if you don’t start toughening up you are going to be marching to Annie’s drum and not the other way around.
Part of me wants to tell you to get over it! She will be ok! You will too! Then the other part of me remembers my little girl being the exact same way and me feeling the exact same way. It crushed me to hear her crying…so I never left her! For real!! Up until she was about 8, I couldn’t even go to a different floor of the house without her trailing behind me. Drove me crazy!
She is now 15 and we are still very close (she still likes to go with me when I go anywhere!) but we do go our seperate ways at times. Hang in there, it gets better….eventually!
I work with a lot of babies and toddlers and sometimes find that it is more the parent that has the separation anxiety than the child. (I’m speaking in general, not saying that is the case here.) The parent has to be okay with letting the child cry. The other thing we encourage parents is to say bye to their child and leave. Don’t linger… once “bye” is said, leave. The more you linger, it shows anxiety that the parent has and the child can sense that. Don’t sneak out because that just gives the child heightened anxiety – that the parent will leave without saying bye. I know it’s not easy but it gets harder before it gets easier.
I am sorry, that sounds terrible. BUT it’s kind of nice in some ways. My kid bounds off with a smile anywhere she is dropped (with kids). And when her grandparents come she waves “bye Mommy”. So at least once I would have loved to see “the lip” or something. Hang in there, our neighbor girl is getting over it. She still would ALWAYS stay with both parents, but it used to be a 30 minute wailing session, and now she hardly notices at late 3.
You have to just do it. Stop the sneaking out the back door, that creates anxiety issues for her because she can’t take her eyes off of either of you without fear one will disappear when she’s not looking. Just be firm with her…”I’ll be back” and then when you do come back make sure you remind her “See, I told you I’d be back”.
She is training you that if she throws enough fits you’ll take her everywhere. Now you need to train her otherwise….
Sneaking is definitely not good as everyone has said, it increases anxiety in young children. Tell her you love her, you’re leaving, and you’ll be right back! And then come back with a smile.
Ahhh, thats so hard….
In all my experiences, it always seems better to not sneak out. When I was a babysitting teenager and early twenty something, the parents would say goodbye, assure the frantic child they would be coming back, hug, kiss and leave being confident and not coddling. It would sometimes be a minute or two, sometimes more like 10-20 minutes, but it always ended and the kids were always okay. I found that when parents snuck out, the kids were farrrrr more upset when they realized the parent(s) were gone. Not sure if this is the case with Annie.
In my life as a parent, I haven’t encountered this. Mostly because its not in my daughters nature (I dont think), but also, we made a point of saying goodbye A LOT. Like, if we are going to the bathroom, down stairs, when she goes to bed, etc… she heard BYE all the time so when we were actually leaving, I don’t think it even phased her.
Good luck Heather!!
Yikes, I just read some of the comments – I truly hope I don’t sound as mean as some of them!!! I hope I don’t sound mean at all…
I agree with the “frequent short trips” so that she knows you will be coming home. I feel for you Heather. I know it’s heartbreaking to see your little one crying. You will make it through and so will she!
Brianne Hurd says:
I a 23, and I had major separation anxiety as a child…. it lasted until elementary school and returned in high school (how embarrassing for me to not be able to sleep away from my own parents in high school). I wouldn’t say that what I experienced was “normal” but I know I am not the only one.
I don’t know what the answer is Heather, but I know I wish my parents cater to my anxiety…. by giving in to it they could have helped it last for as long as it did.
I agree with other readers, and think you should tell her, “I will be right back.” Start with saying it when you leave the room and come back a few minutes later. Then say it, and just stand outside for a few minutes. She will learn that you mean it when you say “I will be right back” and she can build that trust. I wish my mom did this for me!
One thing you could try – take a lot of very small trips out…I am talking, small – like, walk around the block. Don’t sneak out – say “I love you, I will be back soon” and walk out. Then walk around the block and WAHOOOO! You are back! It might start helping her understand that yes, you always come back. Then after awhile, um…walk around the block twice. Baby steps, baby steps.
I set my children’s expectations. “I’m going here and I’ll be back in 30 minutes. The time it will take you to watch yo gabba gabba”. Or I put in a movie depending on where I’m going. I give them a kiss and tell them bye. I also use a happy tone like watching yo gabba gabba is the most fun ever. Or my husband will do a craft with them. And I typically get away with staying out longer than the episode without them catching on… For now. Now they think the fun starts when momma leaves.
Heather this is so normal. You just have to stand your ground. I know it’s hard for you to leave and see that little face, but she’s just testing her boundaries. She knows as well as you do that you’ll be back. She’s pushing you to see how much control she can have. You did the right thing by kissing her and telling her you loved her and then going about your business. You can’t be chained to the house, and she has to learn that Mommy & Daddy being gone for a little while is a part of life.
I know it’s gut-wrenching to see their little faces with so much sadness on them, but I’ll tell you what someone once told me: No baby ever got hurt from crying.
She will be fine, and before you know it (somewhere around 3 I think), you’ll be able to say “Annie, Momma’s going to the store. You’re going to stay with Daddy. I’ll be right back.” and she’ll look up at you from whatever she’s doing and say “Bye!”
Hang in there – it gets better.
I have to agree with the majority of posters. Tell her bye, give her a kiss and leave and then make lots of noise and give her lots of kisses when you get back. Never sneak out, it WILL make it worse.
My husband and I work in the nursery at church in Sundays and the *majority* of anxiety is on the parents, not the child. I have one dad who will leave in the middle of service to come check on his child (every week), sometimes twice. There are weeks he spends the whole time in the nursery, playing with his son. When he isn’t in there, the child plays fine on his own and with others.
Something I found as a parent, if you are leaving and you know when you will be back, I used the the “you can watch 3 shows of xyz and then I will be back.” If in doubt, I added another episode. Mine went through stages where they did not want me to leave (or stay!).
My son is just over 3 and he was the same at Annie’s age with separation anxiety. Generally just with me, he would have a total meltdown if I went out without him. (I’d still go out, and he’d eventually get distracted and stop crying, but it was hard to leave him like that). We’re fairly inseparable, but several months ago he became much less fussy about me doing things without him. He insists on several kisses and hugs before I go (no qualms there!) and then he’ll wave and say, ‘Bye Mommy! Have fun!’ or ‘Later Alligator!’ and run off to play with Daddy or whoever’s looking after him. He’s better with some people than others, but generally will let me go without fuss, knowing I’ll be back later. I know exactly how you feel though, and it seems like it will never get better but it does! Sometimes now my son will barely even look up to say goodbye to me and I’ll say to him, ‘You know, you used to scream and cry when I went out and now you don’t even care!’ and even that’s not enough to get him to notice! LOL So in the not-so-distant future there’s a good chance you’ll be able to go out without the anxiety thinking Annie is freaking out without you!
Totally normal for 2, and by 3 it will be so much better. But in the meantime, I agree with everyone who said don’t sneak out. I would try the short outings (maybe increasing by 5 mins each day) and let her go to the window and watch you leave and wave bye-bye. You could even set a timer that she can watch, and have whoever is with her tell her that when it beeps Mommy will be home. Just be sure you are home by then, lol. Good luck mama, this phase will pass soon!!!
Going through the exact same thing with my 23-month-old. I work full-time, so the second I walk in the door she says, “All done bye bye!”
I took her big sis to gymnastics the other night, and she was DEVASTATED! And I heard she cried for a good 30 minutes or more.
I hate to break her little heart. I’ve read that if you act unemotional about it, they’ll at least pick up on the fact that you’re not bothered by it, so maybe they’ll be less bothered by it.
But honestly, I think there’s not much to be done. Escaping isn’t the best (I’ve done it, though), cause they figure it out and then get more antsy that you’ll do it again.
I think we/they have to suffer through it. It sucks no matter what, but it’s like everything else: just a phase.
My 3rd child (a boy) has always been more attached to me than the others. He went to nursery school a month after he turned 2. His separation anxiety was so bad that we resorted to letting him take his blankie to school with him. The. Whole. Year. For his 3s year he had to kiss blankie and me goodbye in the car, and sometimes he still got teary-eyed.
It is so hard when they cry like that. I cried everytime I dropped my daughter off to preschool for like 2 weeks because her crying broke my heart and she would cling to me. It was horrible. I’d get to my car and just lose it. I would call to check on her later in the day and she would be doing great.
For her, it started at like 20 minutes of constant sobbing and eventually went down day by day to less and less crying until she finally wouldn’t cry at all and would take off on the playground to play. She started preschool in June, just a few months shy of her 3rd birthday.
For the reader towards the top that said somethng about Annie being “way past the age for separation anxiety”, I would say every child adapts and overcomes at different stages. We are about 8 months in to this preschool thing and my daughter still has moments where she wimpers a bit and doesn’t want to stay. Each new experience, whether it’s preschool, a class, an overnight with a relative each will bring a possible different reaction.
There is not perfect age where separation anxiety magically ceases.
Heck, even my teenagers will come home early from a sleepover at a friends house if they feel uncomfortable and would rather be hanging out with good old mom and dad I guess that makes me a really horrible mom who didn’t prep my kids with the right skills, huh?
my heart would break, too. any time my kids want to be with me (which like annie is ALL the time!), i just soak them up and enjoy every moment with them because I know there will come a day when i wish they were crying at the door to spend time with me. but that’s just me – and i think it might be you, too! :o)
I feel your pain, although I don’t have a good solution. It would be easier if she calmed down two minutes after you left, but this does not seem like the case. My issue is with bedtime. My four year old needs me to put her to bed in his long, elaborate sort of way. I’ve been told I should let her “cry it out” but girlfriend is STUBBORN. This is the same child who refused to take a bottle when I went back to work. I would return, 8 HOURS LATER to a hungry, screaming baby who had refused every bottle that was offered to her. I console myself with the reminder that she won’t be like this when she’s ten.
What about an elaborate “love ya, good bye, back soon ritual”? Sneaking out doesn’t work……and it makes her not trust you.
Do lots of quick “going aways”……play games with it: “bye Annie”, “hi Annie”…..just going in and out.
It will get better…..teen agers just don’t do that!
Reading this broke my heart. I went through the exact thing when my daughter was 2. It lasted till she was about 2 and a half.
Key is “do not sneak out”. It adds to her anxiety. I think the idea of baby steps… leave for 5 mins… 10 mins… 15 mins… and she realizes… she is coming back. My daughter used to throw fits if I took a shower and she was not allowed in the bathroom with me. She’d sit in the front of the door and bawl. At 2 1/2 she outgrew that and at 3 she went to pre-school 2x’s a week.
It does get better.
My youngest sister would NOT separate for preschool when she was 3. My mother knew she always came home from school happy. So most mornings, she simply kissed her good-bye, and handed her crying and screaming to the teacher. As tragic and heart-breaking as that sounds… within 10 minutes, my sister was just fine, playing with the other kids.
Its ok to leave Annie in someone else’s care. You know she will be safe and cared for, and she’ll figure that out quickly too!
I’m in a slightly different situation, in that my husband goes out to sea for 2 to 3 months at a time. So, when I have to leave her to do something, I HAVE to leave, and Daddy’s not here to stay home with her.
In that regard, I had no choice but to suck it up and deal with the crying toddler. I know how much it hurts- I used to worry that I was scarring her for life or damaging her emotionally, but in the end, she seems to be just fine. (At least, I haven’t gotten any bills from a toddler therapist yet!) For what it’s worth, a quick kiss and a “see you soon!” became our routine and now she’s just used to it. Best of luck in figuring it out!
Of course you know, as soon as you get this separation thing kicked, she’ll spring a new thing on you. Ahhh…parenthood!
Both my kids were very shy (I guess the 2-year-old still is). The first was especially difficult. But I read early on that the best thing to do is to be very matter-of-fact, up-front, and brief.
That means you don’t get wrapped up in how upset you are over leaving your daughter like that–at least not so she can see. Pretend you’re completely okay with just going, and then freak out a little bit when you’re out of her sight if you need to.
It means you just tell her you’re leaving. No sneaking. That’s actually more distressing for her in the long run. If you openly walk out the door, she’s not so worried about you just disappearing when she loses sight of you.
And it means you say, “We’re going now. We’ll be back!” Then a hug and kiss, and out the door.
She will be okay. The more you do it this way, the more she will understand that you always come back and that she doesn’t need to worry. Drawing it out or capitulating to her tears will only make it worse.
My daughters handle goodbyes really well, and they have for a long time; I think it’s because I learned this stuff before they got to that age. The first few babysitting incidents were not pretty, but they caught on pretty fast.
Also! There’s a Raffi song that really helped my nieces when they were little. I think it’s called, “My Mommy Comes Back,” or something. It’s amazing how little games and songs can help their brains adjust where all the reassurance and explanation from you can’t.
I should add that even on the occasions where they have had a lot of trouble with goodbyes, by the time we got back, they didn’t want to say goodbye to the babysitter.
Kids have a very short-term view of the world. To us, that kind of freaking out looks like she will be emotionally scarred. But keep in mind that babies also flip out over not being given a toy, and then five minutes later, they’ve completely forgotten about it. She’s upset that you’re leaving, but it’s not bad for her. You’re extremely nurturing parents, and you always come back. That’s what will stick with her, not the goodbyes.
My son is about a year and a half old right now.
One thing that seems to help his major separation anxiety: I talk a lot about leaving before I actually do. I talk about “school” (daycare) for about 20 minutes before we leave and the whole time we are on the way there. I ask him what he will do and who will be there.
I do the same for when one of his grandmas comes to babysit at our house. “What are you going to do when grandma gets here? Will you play ball? Will you go on the swing?”
He still kind of whines when I leave, but he doesn’t really have a screaming fit.
To paraphrase Dr Sears: A need that is fulfilled will not be a need anymore. Continue to fill her need to be near you, and it will fill her enough that one day, she will be 100% confident that she can count on you to be there when she really does need you, so if you have to go out, it’ll be okay. Right now, she’s confused–sometimes you go out, sometimes you take her, sometimes it’s a short bit, sometimes a secret. She doesn’t quite have the “case permanent” thing down yet (I think that’s the term).
Then, there’s the other side of the parenting world that says be tough and let her freak out. For some kids, that might work well, and you have to know your kid best If she’s insecure and overly attached in other areas, then tough love is going to beat her spirit. If you think she’s being ego-centric and copes fine once you’re gone, then create a simple and VERY consitant routine and next month you’ll be on to the next issue
And for what it’s worth–taking a toddler out is pretty easy. If you’re walking, a mei tai; if you’re driving, a ring sling is awesome. It’s a great way for her to get a different view of the world (really, it’s pretty boring down in the stroller) and to get her fill of you. And wouldn’t she probably love to be at face height with everyone telling her how pretty she is? I’d much rather go out with a 2 year old on my back, then my 6 year old running haywire!
I’m sure someone already commented this, but often kids will feel comfort when you tell them, “I’m going to the store, and I’m going to buy shampoo and Cheerios and apple sauce!” That way, when they’re with the caregiver, they can remember that Mommy/Daddy is just at the store buying shampoo, Cheerios, and apple sauce!
Our preschool teachers always recommended saying ” I’m going to Starbucks, be right back” Sadly, kids nowadays all know Starbucks but they also know it means it is a quick trip Good luck….
When I was a nanny and the little girl turned three the parents started her in preschool. It didn’t last long because she cried the. entire. time. I would stay and play with her as long as I could to try and make her comfortable but as soon as I’d leave? Epic meltdown. And when I would come back several hours later she would still be a sobbing mess in the teachers lap. It was heartbreaking.
The good news is, when she turned four they tried again and she LOVED it. She couldn’t wait to get to school and even didn’t want to come home.
All kids go at their own pace, Annie will be ready when she’s ready.
Separation anxiety comes & goes. I found it was even coming up here & there at 3 & 4yo as at those ages they develop BIG imaginations and things will freak them out more sometimes. How I dealt with it in my kids was to keep things as normal as possible. Don’t sneak, don’t coddle the behavior- be straightforward & simple “Mommy’s going out- I will be back later- I love you!” and go. Get out of dodge and quick. When you come back, it is also important not to make a huge deal. Of course you’re going to hug & love on her, but don’t mention her missing you, you missing her, etc. I found that by treating it as normal as possible while they were in a ‘phase’, the phase would end fairly quickly- within a couple of weeks. Not to say that it isn’t hard, but I think the longer you react to their behavior, the longer it will last. Good luck!!
Granted I’m not a mom so I don’t know the first thing about separation anxiety but this is what seems to work for my sister and her husband. When they are getting ready to go out; they will call out to her and say “Bye Sadie! Mommy and Daddy are leaving! Come give hugs and kisses.” And they tell her that they love her and she may put up a struggle at first and tell them that they aren’t leaving but they snuggle her a little longer; reaffirm they love her and will be back and then they leave.
And as a nanny; I find it easier on the person left behind with the kids if they get distracted by something else. Like a favorite video or puzzle or book. Or maybe even taking her for a quick walk around the block but before taking her; getting her to do the “I’m going out” routine.
I agree with the others though, it is definitely just a phase.
I tend to agree with the majority of the posters here with the saying goodbye with a big hug and kiss and then leaving. I learned this by watching one of my good friends with her little boy. She was of the belief that if Joey needed her then she would be with him all. the. time. She also believed that if he needed to sleep in their bed, then she would forfeit sleep and restfulness because he. needed. her. Unfortunately this really backfired on her. Joey learned to throw major fits if she wasn’t constantly near his side, so she kept putting “his needs” before her own. Finally, in kindergarten, he would scream so hard that he would literally throw up in the school trashcan outside the main doors. His panic was so engrained that she ended up taking him to a child psychologist so that he could eventually learn to deal with his separation anxiety. She admitted to me that if she had to do it again, she would have dealt with his separation anxiety as a toddler rather than as a six year-old. It was heartbreaking as her friend to see the way she would panic when he was having his meltdowns. Thank God for her example though, because it taught me what not to do. Happy to report that Joey is now a freshman in college and is quite happy without his Mommy by his side! Good luck, Heather! Parenting is so hard sometimes, but you are such a great Mommy!!!
Definitely don’t sneak out. That just makes her want to stay near you more and more because she’ll associate mommy being out of sight with mommy being potentially out of the house. I used to work at a preschool who was focused on getting kids to comfortably separate from mom or dad. It was interesting because some kids were totally nonchalant, walked right in without a second thought. Others took WAY longer. A good read for this sort of stuff is “Parenting Your Toddler” by Patricia Shimm.
As hard as it is to see her cry (and for the other parent to stay home through the crying), I’ve been told by several preschool teachers that it’s better to tell them you are leaving and will come back rather than sneaking out. Otherwise she lives in fear that at any time you just won’t be there — making trips to the bathroom even More fun! This year at school my 3 year old greets me with, “You came back!” and is happy to tell me what she did at school. Good luck, it’s not fun!
Heartbreaking! When I worked at a pretty large daycare center we had plenty of children that had a rough time saying goodbye and there were tons of tears but what I found worked the best, was to find something really cool and distract them as quickly as possible. A game or something different to play with works pretty well. At first it might take a while, but don’t give up!
This way really isn’t fair to Annie. She is worried, like many kids are, that she will not “survive” your going and her unhappiness. By sneaking out or comming back when she cries you are confirming her fears. Best is to talk about it in advance. Then go. THEN when you came back talk about it. “You were sad when mommy left?” “I know, but look, I am back and now we can have fun.” “I will always come back and have fun with you.”
By the way, I don’t think of it as manipulation. That seems like kids are being decietful. Instead it’s the normal smart thing to take whatever action will get the result we desire. She’d be an idiot not to cry if it get her the result of you comming back when she is so worried about you going.
How about getting a couple books from the bookstore. I googled the topic and found a couple interesting ones for Annie
Bye Bye Time Elizabeth Verdick
The Good bye book Judith Viorst
I don’t know I work with Kindergarten students, I always do my best to reassure the parents that they are good once they get involved in activities. Best of Luck keep us updated.
This must be so difficult! As a babysitter on the other end of a lot of separation anxiety, I’ve noticed these periods wax and wane. And so often the children really are fine very quickly after the parents leave, with a lot of hugs and kisses. And I do think that if the adults don’t act too nervous or emotional, then they don’t feed the child’s anxiety. But I’ve also seen times (though they happen less often) when a parent can tell that this time, the child really does need some extra special attention before they can head out. I think it just takes time and experience to learn how to know when it’s time to do what approach, and a lot of pain in between!
I do think though that the idea of getting books, and talking about feelings when parents leave ahead of time can be helpful. As a babysitter, the best way I found to deal with separation was to validate the child’s feelings. “It’s hard to say goodbye, isn’t it? You’re sad. Do you need a hug?”
I say don’t leave again. Ever. At least, that’s what my heart would be telling me to do, too! I really feel for you, my daughter is the same way. She’s now 6 and it was just something that worked itself out eventually. The task really came down to the parent who was still at home to distract her and make her think of something else – a new game, song, hey let’s color mommy a picture, etc. Take her when you can, but if you can’t, then just remind her you love her and you’ll be home. Once she realizes you WILL come home, it’ll get easier. Not overnight or anything (darnit!) but eventually.
My son, who is now almost 4, doesn’t even know I’m in the house with him right now. He could care less! Each kiddo is different and needs things differently. Hang in there.