1 to 2 Years
Your child is savoring the thrill of independence now that he can toddle around and explore on his own. He's moving away from you (literally and figuratively) -- sometimes a little too far. For example, he may follow a squirrel he's spied in the backyard, then panic when he realizes you're not close by anymore. "This back-and-forth is typical of this age," says Dr. Donahue. Kids crave the chance to roam by themselves but like to know that they can reach for you at a moment's notice.
What Your Child Is Thinking
"I can walk around the playground now, but what if I need my mom and she's not nearby?" "If I'm left with this babysitter, will my parents forget about me?"
Don't be surprised if your child starts clinging to a lovey now. A blanket or teddy bear can help him feel safe and connected to you no matter where he goes. It's fine to encourage the habit to make separations easier; experts stress that it's healthy attachment.
When you're at home, spend a few minutes apart from your child. For example, encourage him to play in a room next to the kitchen while you start dinner (to be sure he's safe, poke your head in without letting him see you). He'll learn that it's okay to be away from you for just a little while.
Taking the seriousness out of longer separations can help, as Jill Lankler, of Larchmont, New York, discovered. Her daughter, Isabel, cried every time she went to the babysitter's. "I realized that she hated the word goodbye," says Lankler. "So we made up silly words for it, like gobblygook. When it was time to say goodbye, I'd say the word and she'd laugh. Separations definitely got easier."