Did you know that separation anxiety has a scientific explanation? What seems like a challenging behavior is actually a cognitive milestone!
If your little one cries when you leave, or knows to find you when you walk into another room, you know that they are working on object permanence. This means they are holding the idea of something (you!) in their mind, even when they cannot see it (or you!).Pinpoint your baby’s stage of development with the MILES & STONES COMPASS
Separation anxiety can be heightened at the holidays when we gather with friends and family, hoping that our little ones will be happy to be passed around or taken for bonding time with less-than-familiar faces.
What you'll notice
When houseguests are eager to play with your little one (and you are eager to take a break!) you might find that your child’s awareness that you are somewhere else will manifest as separation anxiety.
How you can help
Playing with object permanence concepts will help your baby understand that the hidden object will return to them, reassuring them that you’ll be back as well.
When does separation anxiety start?
As early as 5 months, you might observe that your baby will look for a dropped toy. This is the earliest sign of object permanence. Your baby knows the toy exists, even though it fell down. They have absorbed enough information about physics to know to look downward. However, at this point, they are easily distracted and don't think about objects that are out of sight for very long. Closer to eight months, you'll notice a more concerted effort to retrieve a dropped toy. When the length of time your baby spends tracking or reaching out for the toy increases, you'll probably notice separation anxiety beginning to emerge.
Three helpful activities for babies between 9 and 18 months old to prepare for separation anxiety
Your baby will delight each time you show them your face after hiding it behind your hands or putting a blanket over your head. With experience, they will get comfortable with not seeing you.
Box With Sliding Lid
Part of the Miles & Stones Journey, a subscription from Monti Kids, this Montessori toy allows your baby to further develop their understanding of object permanence. When the lid covers the shapes inside of it, your little one has to recall that the hexagonal chip and prism are still in there. Then they slide the lid back and are delighted to find that they were right!
Hide And Seek
This classic game can be introduced in stages. Keep your baby with you while you look for another adult who is hiding. Explain that you are looking for Papa. A toddler may enjoy hiding on their own, looking for someone who is hidden or they may prefer to team up with a grown-up and look for a doll or stuffed animal that you have hidden.
As they develop the understanding that even when you are gone you always come back, they will feel less stress when they are separated. This is all a normal part of their maturation.