Q: My 9-month-old baby cries whenever I leave him at daycare. How can I help him cope with separation anxiety?
A: While it may be heartbreaking to watch your child cry or cling to your leg every time you try to leave the room, know that this is a normal stage of development for healthy, secure babies. Separation anxiety happens because your baby has learned the concept of object permanence -- the ability to remember people and objects when they're not in front of him. And unfortunately, babies learn about people leaving before they understand about them returning. Your baby can tell from your actions and from the environment -- seeing the daycare provider, your work bag, etc. -- that you're getting ready to leave, and his anxiety starts to build, but he doesn't yet know when or if you will return. As he grasps this, he'll be less upset when you go. Try playing separation/return games, like showing him a stuffed animal, then hiding it and asking "Where's the elephant?" and then bringing it back in front of him. You can also introduce a lovey, like a blanket or favorite animal, which will comfort baby when you're not around.When you say good-bye at daycare, keep it brief, yet affectionate. Give your baby a big hug and kiss and say, "Don't worry, Mommy's coming back so soon." If you can distract your baby with a game or mirror, that can make slipping out easier (but never sneak out of the room without saying good-bye -- in the long run, it will be more upsetting for your baby). It also helps to play with your baby and the daycare provider for a few minutes to ease the transition, especially if it's someone your baby doesn't know well.
Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.