the peak: toddlerdom
For some kids, separation anxiety vanishes before toddlerhood; for others, that's when it starts, peaking sometime between 12 and 24 months and bringing a more potent dose of distress. "This is when children develop a strong sense of attachment to the parent," says Barzvi. "You'll see tantrums or screaming or hysterical crying." (Worried your child's reaction is extreme? Visit Separation Anxiety in the Extreme for more info.) What's also at play now is their desire to have some control over their lives, says Abbot. They know by now that you're coming back, but they would prefer that you stick around. And because they also know that wailing will usually get a
reaction, they give it their best shot.
how to get through it:
develop a goodbye ritual For example, whenever you have to leave your toddler at daycare, give her two kisses and a high five. "The ritual creates order around the departure for both parent and child," says Abbot. And that provides security.
give your child a small job When Ilene Siringo's 23-month-old son, Luca, hit a particularly clingy phase, she started asking him to "shut the door for Mommy" when she left for work. This little responsibility made the transition a lot easier. "He likes to help, and he gets to have control of the door," says Siringo, an optometrist in New York City. This strategy can also work with kids who get anxious when you have to leave the room. For instance, if you need to get the laundry, give your child a sweater to "fold" until you get back.
provide an ETA "A child this age doesn't understand 'three hours,' but you can say, 'I'll be back after snack time,' " Abbot advises. And do your best to return when promised. It's tempting to think he won't know the difference if you're significantly late, but at some point he will -- and you can't predict when. If you're heading out for a late night, tell him you'll see him in the morning.
remind your toddler that you always return When Anna Zirker's twin boys were 2, she put her own twist on this trick: "When they'd say, 'Mommy, don't go,' I'd ask, 'What does Mommy do when she leaves?' and they'd say, 'Mommy comes back,' " says Zirker, of Bend, OR. Still works every time.