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Field Guide to Temper Tantrums

The Fearsome Fret

Habitats: Daycare centers, near baby-sitters and grandparents

Trigger: Separation anxiety

Age range: 18 months to 5 years, often during key developmental milestones

Look for: Your child clinging to your legs; piercing shrieks as you try to extricate yourself from her viselike clutch

Field report: Oliver adores his babysitter, who spends afternoons with him while I work at home. But the other day, he made it very clear that he wanted Mommy, not Dawn, to watch videos with him. I said my goodbyes and escaped into my office, whereupon a mini-tantrum erupted in the living room. Dawn weathered the storm, which passed when Oliver gave up and seemed to remember that she's a good video partner too.


Prevention and handling:

* Let your child "babysit" something of yours. Give her a pillowcase with your smell on it or a small photo album she can carry around with her.

* Talk up overnight sitters. Remind your child that Grandma is your mommy, and share some happy childhood memories with her.

* Bring the caregiver into the loop. Many tantrums erupt over "Mommy does it this way!" Your child will feel comforted if she's served the same breakfast cereal she enjoys at home.

* Say your goodbyes, then leave. Your hesitation and nervousness might just reinforce her anxiety over departures.