The best thing I experienced as a first-time mother was my son’s endless devotion to me; I was his need, a want he couldn’t do without. It was a blissful feeling. By the time, he turned two, he pretty much grew out of his dependence on me; he didn’t mind my absence for a couple hours. My daughter was another story though. After she turned six months old, I realized she depended overly on me. During the first few months, I thought little of it but after she turned a year old, I realized she couldn’t do without me. She wouldn’t even stay with her dad for a few moments if I wasn’t there. We were not ready; we were caught off guard. Unlike her brother who passed through his period of separation anxiety with little complain, she seemed engulfed by it. Every time I left (to cook, take shower, or just leave the room) she would crumble to pieces. During those months, I worked around the house carrying her with me. My husband thought I was spoiling her. I knew she was too young to be left alone to cry on her own. It wouldn’t have achieved anything other than making her more anxious. She was just a baby. Once she started walking, she spent lots of her time playing with her brother, but only in my presence. I knew her biggest fear was the realization she and mom were two separate individuals and mom could disappear anytime. I never sneaked out of room without telling her. I would ask her if she wanted to come and watch mom or just play with her brother upstairs in the family room while mommy cooked or did some chore downstairs. The approach worked. She learned to have faith in my words. Reluctantly at first, she started staying with her brother. I would make a few trips to their play area on the pretext of doing something (Don’t let your child see your apprehension; the children, babies and toddlers alike are so sensitive to parents’ emotions, they can pick their concern in a jiffy and become more insecure), and that would always reassure her that mommy was around. Soon I started leaving her home with dad and brother while making shopping trips—initially, the 1-2-hour grocery trips and later, some little longer ones. Instead of sneaking, I made sure to say goodbye. She learned mom wouldn’t just disappear; she didn’t have to be on her guard always. Even if she cried (which she did in the beginning), I would make a joke of the situation and leave. Feed your child’s apprehensions too much, and she would definitely sustain on it. She was old enough to understand. As a parent, the feeling of guilt is something I’m well aware of. But it’s important for your child to learn that everything wouldn’t be picture-perfect always; it is ok to be unhappy sometimes. By the time, she turned three and half; she was ready to explore the world. After she turned four, I could be absent for whole day and she wouldn’t care (as a book addict, sometimes on weekends, I spend hours in bookstores browsing books). She’s a quiet, reserved, and a secure little girl now and love school, parties, playdates, and has quite a few best friends. How did you deal with your child’s separation anxiety? If you have any tips, you are welcome to share in the comment section below.
Neena lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, two children, a highly energetic German Shepherd, and a lifetime collection of her favorite books.
A hermit at heart, she’s a permissive mother, a reluctant housekeeper, a superb cook, and a hard-core reader.
Tied to Deceit is her debut novel.
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