MAJOR separation anxiety, help!

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MAJOR separation anxiety, help!

Postby MumToOwen » Fri 31 May, 2013 2:25 pm

Hi again,

My nearly 13 month old has come down a case of major separation anxiety that its ridiculous! Or it seems that way to me, but frightening to him I imagine. 2 weeks ago I joined the gym to finally get some fitness back in my life after not doing any serious exercise since way before he was born and thought putting him in the crèche was a perfect 'starter' to being looked after by someone other than me. I think I've shot myself in the foot here, not having any one look after my son other than my husband, ever. I was thinking about looking for work in a few months time and thought this'd be a good transition to needing childcare a couple of days per week, but now I'm not so sure.

We went to swimming yesterday and just intermittently cried the whole lesson, did not want to let go of me to sit on the wall (been going swimming since he was 13 weeks old so it's nothing new) and if the instructor took him to then swim him to me he went mental. And today we went to gymbaroo and normally he wants to get going on the equipment and explore but today, again, he wouldn't have a bar of it, couldn't bare to let me go for a second!

I'm starting to think I've done the wrong thing with the crèche because I think that's the catalyst here, that's the thing that's different and he's been 100 times worse since.

Is there anything I can do to help him be more independent of me and not so frightened?

Thanks so much!
MumToOwen
 
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Re: MAJOR separation anxiety, help!

Postby NgalaOnline » Sun 02 Jun, 2013 1:03 pm

Hi MumToOwen

Thank you for your post. Phases of intense separation anxiety are common and normal for babies and toddlers, although they can be frustrating for parents. Many parents feel anxious when a child is experiencing a phase of intense anxiety, as the parent worries that this behaviour will continue on indefinitely and that they will never be able to leave their child. This is usually not the case, however. Children typically seem to experience surges of anxiety that last around 2-3 months, then the separation anxiety seems to dip again. They may experience another phase of intense anxiety at a later phase. Often, when a child is really not coping with separation the easiest thing to do is to avoid the separation where possible for a few more weeks or months (if this is achievable) and often when the separation is tested again a bit later the child is more able to cope with it.

As your son's anxiety has only been happening for the last few days it may be that he is coming down with a virus, which can often lead to several days of clingy and unsettled behaviour before symptoms appear. It is also likely, however, that he may be reacting to the separation he experienced at crèche. This is a normal response. The most important thing when reacting to separation anxiety is to acknowledge that this is a real fear for the child, and to respond sensitively the child as it appears you are doing. It is common for parents to sometimes feel that their child is manipulating them or "putting on" their display of fear, but it is helpful to remember that you are your child's main source of security and safety in this world and he is experiencing some true feelings of fear at being separated, rather than trying to manipulate you or make life difficult. If you would like to continue with him going to crèche you may find it helpful if you can attend regularly for a few weeks where you remain with him for the duration of the session, helping him to become familiar and secure with the environment and the carers. Once he is appearing more confident and begins exploring the environment you may like to trial leaving him for a short period of time such as 10 minutes or so. You can then build this time away up. This approach may take some patience for a few weeks, but is a supportive way of helping your child to become comfortable in the crèche environment. Another option, if you find he will not settle in the crèche environment but you would like some time out, is if you do have trusted people who would be willing to babysit you may find that he will tolerate separation better if it is in your home and with a familiar person who can devote more 1:1 time to him. The environment of a crèche with lots of children and stimulation can be overwhelming for a child, being cared for in a quieter and familiar environment such as being babysat may be a better transition for him getting used to being apart from you.

If he is suddenly showing separation anxiety about you leaving him or being apart from him at home or during usual activities, it is best to respond to this sensitively but not to give the reaction too much attention and fuss. If he cries at being handed to the swimming teacher for instance and does not settle quickly, it would be helpful to take him back from the teacher but appear calm and fairly neutral as you do this, before distracting your child with something new. If you give a lot of fuss to the child or appear anxious yourself about him being scared by the separation, this reaction can confirm to the child that there truly was something to be scared of. It is helpful to be responsive to your child's need for extra closeness and proximity to you, but things like leaving the room for small periods of time when he is playing and calling to him from the next room can help him build up tolerance for you being out of site. If he becomes distressed it is best to calmly return to him, not give a lot of fuss to the fact he is crying, but calmly engage him or distract him with a new activity. Sitting with him and playing until he is happy to get up and leave you (rather than you always leaving him) can also help to reestablish some security about being separated from you. You may find the following link helpful:

http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/HealthT ... 41&id=1848

I hope that this information is helpful.
This information is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for the personalized assistance that can be received from the Ngala Helpline by telephone.

For families residing in Western Australia you can also contact the
Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 for country access
Available 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm
or request a callback online http://www.ngala.com.au/Ngala-and-You/Ngala-Helpline/Contact-Ngala-Helpline-Online

For helplines in other Australian states please follow this link
http://www.ngala.com.au/You-and-Your-Family/Web-Based-Resources
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Re: MAJOR separation anxiety, help!

Postby MumToOwen » Sun 02 Jun, 2013 2:04 pm

Ok great, thanks, that's really helpful.

Only thing is with the crèche it's at my gym so I'm not sure if they'll allow me to be in there but I will definitely ask for sure, anything's worth a go. So you would suggest avoiding it if possible until he's comfortable? Will I make things worse by continuing? He only goes in once a week and one other day my mum comes over and looks after him. I'm definitely aware of him being upset when I've left him there and he cries when he finally sees me reappear and immediately pick him and and kiss him and tell him that mummy will always come back, not that he understands that yet at 13 months. So he gets lots of love when he's upset. I think it's more the anxiety when I AM in his company that I don't get but I guess that will pass too. If its possible to build up the separation at the crèche and I have no other choice but to leave him is there anything else I can do to help him? In the way that I say goodbye or even if I'm just there for 10 minutes so he can warm up and then leave?

Thanks again.
MumToOwen
 
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon 16 Jul, 2012 12:58 pm

Re: MAJOR separation anxiety, help!

Postby NgalaOnline » Mon 03 Jun, 2013 7:10 pm

Hi MumtoOwen

Thanks for your post. Whether you persevere with the crèche or not is really a personal decision based on how you feel your baby is coping. It is very common for children to cry as their parent leaves and then cry again when their parent returns, but if it is reported that he is settling to some extent whilst you are away then this is a good sign and you may decide to continue on with the crèche. If you find he is settling quicker each time and becoming less distressed with time then it may also be worthwhile persevering. Many children do adapt and become more confident with separation with some time and continued exposure. If on the other hand, your baby is remaining very distressed for the whole duration of your absence and is not seeming to improve or become more calm over time you may decide that it would be kindest to wait another couple of weeks or months before trying the crèche again. Alternatively you might continue with the crèche but keep the sessions very short (such as 10 or 20 minutes at first) whilst he is remaining so distressed. Each child is different and it is not possible to say how quickly your baby will adjust. Many parents find that their child will adapt to crèche or daycare more quickly if they go quite frequently. Often day care centres will recommend that new children come more than once a week whilst they adapt to the environment, as familiarity helps bring confidence and a week between visits can be long enough that the child forgets a lot about the environment and has a harder time building familiarity with the setting and carers. During this transition period you might like to consider more regular but short visits to see if this is helpful. In terms of whether continuing crèche will make his separation anxiety at home worse - it is possible that continuing the crèche may heighten his separation anxiety at home, but if you continue to support him through this phase both at home and at crèche it is likely to be a phase that will pass with time.

With regard to easing his transition to the crèche environment, spending 10 minutes or so playing with him before you leave can be helpful. This shows him that you are happy and confident with the environment, and also gives him the security to explore the environment and become familiar with it before you leave. When it is time to leave it is best to say goodbye - this helps him to trust that you will not just disappear. Keeping your goodbye brief and positive is best - if you linger, show signs of anxiety or upset yourself this can heighten your baby's distrust of the environment and make him feel that there is something to be worried about. Taking a comfort item such as a dummy or teddy can be helpful. Some children feel reassured if they can have their pram in the crèche, as they can go and sit in the familiarity of the pram if they need their own space and some time away from the other children.

I hope this information is helpful.
This information is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for the personalized assistance that can be received from the Ngala Helpline by telephone.

For families residing in Western Australia you can also contact the
Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 for country access
Available 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm
or request a callback online http://www.ngala.com.au/Ngala-and-You/Ngala-Helpline/Contact-Ngala-Helpline-Online

For helplines in other Australian states please follow this link
http://www.ngala.com.au/You-and-Your-Family/Web-Based-Resources
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Re: MAJOR separation anxiety, help!

Postby MumToOwen » Mon 03 Jun, 2013 7:22 pm

That further clarification helped heaps actually, thank you. As you can imagine its hard for me too, not just him. I don't want to damage him or make things worse etc.

Thanks again. You guys are angels! X
MumToOwen
 
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon 16 Jul, 2012 12:58 pm

Re: MAJOR separation anxiety, help!

Postby NgalaOnline » Mon 03 Jun, 2013 8:35 pm

You are welcome MumToOwen, glad the information was helpful. Although separation anxiety is a normal part of development it can certainly be difficult for parents. It sounds like you are managing it werll, and I hope that the phase will end shortly for you.
This information is general in nature and should not be used as a substitute for the personalized assistance that can be received from the Ngala Helpline by telephone.

For families residing in Western Australia you can also contact the
Ngala Helpline
Telephone 9368 9368 or 1800 111 546 for country access
Available 7 days a week, 8am to 8pm
or request a callback online http://www.ngala.com.au/Ngala-and-You/Ngala-Helpline/Contact-Ngala-Helpline-Online

For helplines in other Australian states please follow this link
http://www.ngala.com.au/You-and-Your-Family/Web-Based-Resources
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