Berkeley Parents Network >
My 4 month old is what I think is just ''high maintanance'' - I
have to constantly (every 3-5 mins) change activities. I
assumed this is normal or at least semi-normal until recently.
I took her on visits (each about a week long) to meet her
grandparents and friends. She always smiles initially, but
very quickly cries. To me, this is her usual ''boredom'' and she
just needs to move on, so I would take her and give her other
things to do. People would say ''my, she's fussy'' or ''oh she
must be overstimulated'' or ''she needs to eat'' when she just
did. Meanwhile I thought she was being what I thought was
normal and that these people are just not familiar with infant
But now I have also left her with 2 different babysitters, who
are familiar with infant behavior, for short stints and have
been told that she screamed the entire time - whether I was
gone for an hour or 3 hours (when they gave up!). She seemed
fine/normal when I got her (fussy, but consolable).
So I can't tell if she's anxious from being away from me - when
I return or when she's passed to me, she does calm down, but
even that only lasts for short times.
Regardless - what do I do? She does do long intervals with her
dad very regularly and she takes a bottle from him and
seemingly behaves the same. She's also an awesome sleeper at
I am having a similar problem with my 4 month old baby boy. I
went back to work 2 1/2 weeks ago and he has not adjusted to his
baby sitter yet. I am only working 20 hours a week, but that is
enouth to make him scream for hours while I am gone. When I drop
him off he lasts for about 5 minutes until he realizes that I am
not around anymore and starts crying. I can only think that it
is separation anxiety because other than that he is very happy.
He usually doesn't have a problem going with people as long as I
am nearby. What we have noticed is that he does better at home.
When I have people over and I get busy he can stay
with ''strangers'' fine. He also stays with his dad without any
problems. He did a little bit better the last time I droped him
off. Maybe you just need to give her more time. Good luck!
4 months seems a bit too early for separation anxiety. But I
can see how you would be confused! I can give you two points
of reference. First off, my daughter is a bit ''high
maintenance''. She needs constant new stimulation. She is now
16-months-old. Even at 4 months, she too, seemed to
get ''bored'' quickly and needed something new to look at, etc.
But she was also very comfortable with strangers at this age.
On the other hand, my girlfriend's son seemed to cry almost any
second he was away from his mom, (especially mom), or dad for
the first 5 months. Then, he just changed. He became very
outgoing and still is. He's now 15 months. I guess my point
is, that whatever your daughter is doing, she will probably
grow out of very fast. :)
She sounds exactly like my daughter. I didn't realize that my daughter's
constant need to explore, move, etc. wasn't the norm until I joined a mom's
group and nine 5-month-old babies happily sat in their car seats, on the floor
for two hours, while my daughter basically screamed ''get me out of here, I'm
bored out of my mind''! Two years later, it is the same; while my daughter
cruises across the playground, the other kids happily stick to the same spot. I
have decided to believe my friend's theory, which is that her insatiable curiosity
is a sign of intelligence. All this activity helped her to sleep through the night
from the start too, and that is a huge bonus. I think that you should trust your
instincts (your baby gets bored easily, because she is so smart!) and try to find
babysitters who can handle the very active, energetic baby. It took my daughter
a while to get used to any new caregiver but it did happen, especially when the
caregiver paid close attention and kept her from getting bored in the first
Love the active girls
My 3 yr. old son has been going to a combined preschool/daycare
facility since Thanksgiving (4 hours, 3 times a week).
I enrolled him mainly because he expressed a very strong desire
to have friends and seemed to get bored just hanging out with
me and his little sister (now 18 m).
The school he goes to is terrific - the teachers are very
caring, they have fun and challenging activities and he used to
really like going there. That has changed a few weeks ago -
starting with comments like ''I want to stay home today to
play...'' and he is now crying and clinging to me each time I
drop him off.
He gets along well with most of the other kids and his best
friend is there, too. He had some fights with another boy, but
hasn't talked about that recently and the teachers haven't
noticed anything either so I think that isn't a problem anymore.
The teachers told me not to worry, especially since he is okay
once I'm gone (and sometimes doesn't even want to leave when I
come to pick him up).
Is this ''just a phase'', do other kids show that kind of
seperation anxiety, too and what do you do about it?
I feel bad abot leaving him there crying, especially since I'm
a SAHM and he cold jst stay home with me till he is a little
My son, who is almost 3, suddenly started complaining about going
to daycare about 6 months ago. I am sorry to say he has not
grown out of this phase yet; every single time he pouts and says
he wants to stay home. But since, like your son, he is fine as
soon as I leave (and would go crazy if we stayed home, anyway),
we decided that the problem isn't with the daycare; it's just a
kind of test he is conducting on us, seeing how much control he
has over the situation. I suggest talking with your daycare
provider about a strategy. In my case, we determined that I was
giving too many mixed messages by trying to persuade him (''But
all your friends are there, and you're going to do an art
project!!'') and staying with him at dropoff time to ease the
transition. The message to him was that ''maybe'' the decision was
his, that I was considering staying with him instead of leaving.
Now, when he complains, I say firmly, ''I'm sorry you're sad, but
it's time to go now.'' When I drop him off, I say, ''I have to
leave in 3 minutes!'' I'll read or cuddle for 3 minutes and then
say, ''It's time for me to go, but so-and-so is going to take good
care of you. I'll see you after lunch!'' He seems a LOT more
content since we started doing this; he can tell it's not a
negotiation, so he spends less time in anxiety mode trying to
work it. I know it's hard to walk away from that pitiful
sad-face . . . but as long as you are sure he is having fun once
you leave, I wouldn't worry too much about the momentary
dramatics. You could also cut down the number of hours he's in
daycare, but either way it's good to have a transition ''script''
(for days he's with a babysitter, when he goes to school, etc.)
Best of luck to you!
For the past few weeks, my 4-year old son has been having
severe separation anxiety in the mornings. My husband and I
both work and stagger our schedules. My husband drops off our
son at preschool at 9am, and I pick him up at 4:30pm. This
worked very well for a long time. However, now my son cries
every morning and is always begging me to not leave. I
constantly try to reinforce to him that I love him and always
come home from work, but he still is distraught.
I'm wondering how other families have handled this. Is this
just a stage? Has your child suffered any long term emotional
consequences? Did you change your work schedule (this would be
difficult for us)? I should note that we are due to have
another baby soon. Could the idea of a sibling be causing this?
Thank you for your input.
We went through the same thing with my son when he was around the
same age. The first thing you need to do is talk to the daycare
provider and enlist their help. My son's problem was not so much
separation anxiety as it was that he had a hard time
transitioning from one situation to another. In our situation,
the daycare let him be the teacher's helper in the morning, so he
had an adult to attach himself to and specific jobs to do. This
helped enormously. I also knew that my son was happy overall at
the daycare and wasn't having any other issues at 'school'.
Also, I'd try to keep a very positive persepective about things
for your child. On the way to daycare talk about the exciting
things you're going to be doing at work and the grown-up friends
you'll see. And remind him of the fun things he will do and the
good freinds he will see and play with. Keep the goodbyes short
and sweet and unemotional (on your part anyway).
I will tell you that I was very nervous about my son's transition
to kindergarten, and we had no trasition or separation problems
whatsoever. I think the combination of an extra year of maturity
and the exciting world of kindergarten made the kindergarten
transition much easier.
My daughter did the same thing. I think it is a stage, but I
also wanted her to know that although I have to work, she is
still more important to me than work.
I solved it by first, taking a couple hours off work about once
a month to hang out at the preschool. And second, every couple
of months, bring her to work with me for a couple of hours, so
she knows where I am, what I do, and why it is important.
You might want to check into the philosophy or Parent's Leadership Institute - they
have a website. Don't know the address off hand, but you can do a search. They
are based in Palo Alto, but have many workshops and classes here in the northbay.
There are many articles posted on the website about dealing with separation. The
general idea is that a child can't resolve separation issues unless they are lovingly
supported while going through all the feelings of fear related to separation. I have
seen AMAZING results with this process.
We just started our 20 months old daughter in a rather large
daycare last week and she does not stop crying the entire time
that she's there. Our plan was to have her attend daycare for
just 15 hours a week, but she can't even make it through an
hour. I know that it is common for children to cry when the
parent is dropping them off, but most children seem to stop
crying within minutes. My daughter cries for hours. Until we
enrolled her in daycare, she had previously stayed home with me,
her mother. She has never had a regular babysitter; my husband
is the only other person I can leave her with, and even then she
will start crying for me when it gets too late in the day. So I
know why her separation anxiety is so extreme. The advice I'm
seeking is what, if anything, can I do about it? Should I just
keep taking her to daycare and expect that she will just get
used to it? Would it make a difference if we chose some other
childcare option, such as a smaller home-based daycare or a
nanny? I am not currently working, but am looking for work. I
really need some time for myself, but I also don't want my
daughter to be miserable the entire time that she is away from
me. If I were to decide to keep her home with me a little
longer and try daycare again later, will she still gradually
outgrow her separation anxiety? Or is it the type of thing
where the longer we wait to establish some regular childcare,
the harder it will be? Any advice would be much appreciated.
My daughter started daycare when she was 18 months old. As your
daughter, she had been mainly with me and my husband. The toddler
group at her school has 3 classes, each with 14 kids and 3
teachers. She also had a hard time adjusting. We kept on
trying different things. In retrospect, these are all the things
we would have liked to have done from the beginning (or even
before she started attending school):
* At night read stories about children in daycare (''When Mommy
and Daddy go to Work'', etc )
* Take some pictures of her school and teachers, look at them
together and talk about things she could do at school.
* Establish an after school routine (snuggle with Mom while
reading a book under a cozy blanket).
* After a couple of days of crying, change the morning routine
and have my husband drop her instead of me.
* In the mornings, while still in the car and when she is calm,
tell her that she is going to go to school and that she
is going to paint and sing, etc. Also tell her over and over
again that I am going to come pick her up at the end of the day.
* Greet her teacher very warmly.
* When dropping her off, give her a hug and tell her once more
that we would come and get her at the end of the day. Be VERY
brief and leave without hesitation (and do not come back to take
a peek and see if she is OK).
* Start her in daycare a little slower such as 3 hours a day (it
seems that you are already doing that). 5 days a week is a good
thing because it gives her some consistency.
* Yes, in our case I think it would have been easier to have her
at at a smaller home-base daycare (from the beginning). But we
did not like any of the places we visited. However, I don't
think it would have been a good idea to move her to another
daycare (unless there was something obviously wrong with the
However, it is not all up to you. The teachers also have to make
an effort. For example:
* They should work hard at engaging her in an activity she
* She is accostumed to one-to-one attention. The teachers should
facilitate her transition by reasuring to her that although they
are not right next to her all the time, they are close by and
* They should also tell her what is going on before it happens.
''Now we are all going to the play room..'' Instead of her seeing
everyone leave the room.
While my child has not personally experienced what your
daughter is going through, she does attend a large daycare
and I've seen/heard some unhappy toddlers as they adjust.
It is SO heartwrenching to hear their pain! At our school, a
teacher will usually hold or play with the unhappy child. (An
advantage of big schools is that they can afford a teacher to
spend one-on-one time with kids having a hard transition. )
Sometimes it takes a few weeks, but eventually most kids
seem to feel comfortable and begin to enjoy playing with
other kids, participating in the activities
(singing/dancing/art/snacks), and playing with new toys.
Most schools have a set routine and this helps the kids
know what to expect. Maybe in the beginning, just leave her
for two hours at a time, same time, every day M-F. She'll
learn that when you say you'll be back, you do come back,
and she gets a chance to become comfortable with the
class. With my toddler it's always helped to discuss new
situations and expectations ahead of time (e.g., ''It's time to
play with your friends now and Mama's going to work. Soon
you're going to have a snack, then play outside, eat some
lunch, take a nap and then Mama will come pick you up!)
You know your child best, but I think you need to persist for
P.S. I think the hardest situation I witnessed was one
toddler who went to school only on Friday mornings. He
cried for months! The spacing was so spread out that he
was constantly going through a difficult transition every time
he was at school.
I think that it's very schocking for your daughter to suddenly be
put in a daycare situation when all she has known is you as her
primary care giver. I am think that she has not been in
playgroups either and if I am right this might make it doubly
hard for her. I am sure that if you left her in daycare she
would adjust....eventually. I think the question you need to ask
yourself is whether or not you want her to adjust in that way.
If not, perhaps you might want to start by getting her used to
being around lots of other children first and when that's said
and done getting her used to staying with other adults and then
maybe try daycare. If you can't afford the time then maybe
you;ll just have to suck it up and let her cry there. I thin it
all depends on what you feel is reight for the both of you.
My baby girl is 14 months old and I always see that other
babies cry when the mother leaves the room. Mine doesn't
do it , only sometimes (rarly) she wines a little bit. I know I
should be glad but I read that separation anxiety is an
important milestone because it means that the baby has
bonded with the mother. Does that mean that my baby didn't
bond with me ? I am a stay at home mom ( I read to her,
play with her, we go to play groups and so on) She is also
still nursing ( 2 times a day ). Overall she is a pretty happy
baby only sometimse a little moody. She is not scared of
strangers unless she is very tired or cranky. Pretty much
everybody can hold her and she usually doesn't cry. Well, I
am all happy about that but when I read that separation
anxiety is an important milestone I was not sure if I gave my
best as a mother.
I'm no expert, but I would think that you have absolutely nothing to worry
about. It sounds like you have a happy, well adjusted baby whose needs are
being met, and she's okay with that. I don't think separation anxiety is an
absolute neccesity in the bonding process, I think kids can experience it for
just one day, realize that mom really IS coming back, and not worry about it
ever again. I know that the tendency is to blame yourself, I absolutely know
how you feel!!!! and I know that many people will probably tell you to ''count
blessings,'' but it sounds like you're doing a great job, you're bonded with your
baby, and she's just happer than most!
Please ignore all the crap you read in books and instead trust
your own instincts. Of course your baby has bonded with you. Some
babies like strangers, some don't. Not all babies are the same--
and hurray for that!
I am a stay-at-home mom to my son who is just a year and he
doesn't experience separation anxiety either. He is the happiest
healthiest baby. That's not just my opinion either. Everyone who
meets him says so. We are completely bonded. We have tons of fun
and laugh together go to playgroups but he is also great playing
by himself or just crawling around the house. Doesn't sound like
you have anything to worry about.
I am a developmental psychologist and can speak with some
authority when I say that separation anxiety is not an
important developmental milestone. Children vary greatly in
the degree to which they become anxious around strangers and
during separation, and although parenting may play a role in
this, I do not think you need to worry. The amount of crying
at separation is NOT a reflection of the infant's attachment.
What matters more is how your child reacts when you come back.
Does she look at you and smile? Does she walk to you or want to
show you toys? I suspect you are greeted warmly when you
return, and then your child goes on playing and exploring.
This means that she is securely attached. I think being able
to handle separation well and to enjoy the parent's return
means a child is well adjusted.
You have raised a child that feels secure, is trusting and knows
she is loved. Separation anxiety occurs when children feel
insecure; your child knows you'll always be there so she doesn't
worry when you go away for a short time. Be glad!
Your baby sounds great (and totally bonded!) I think the message
that ''separation anxiety'' is an important milestone is intended
to console mothers whose kids scream inconsolably when they
leave the room. I don't think the lack of this kind of behavior
is anything you should worry about or feel guilty over. My
sister had two inconsolable screamers and one baby who loves
everybody and can even be left alone in a room for 10 min. w/o
complaint. You've got a sweet mellow baby and yes, you are
My son showed little or no sign of separation anxiety as a 14-
month-old (or earlier). Occasionally, he would look slightly
anxious when I left, but that was the extent of it. He, like your
little girl, is not afraid of strangers (or much of anything
else); he's just a very laid-back, cheerful little boy, and has
always been quite easy-going.
Just because your daughter shows little sign of separation anxiety
does not mean she hasn't bonded with you. It probably means that
she's not a terribly anxious kid. This is just her temperament,
and she was probably born that way. Also, she very well may show
separation anxiety later; my son is now 18 months old and suddenly
has started howling when I leave him with his caregiver, and
asking for ''Mama'' whenever I leave the room. Just doing it on his
own timetable, I guess.
Relax! It sounds like she is just a very easy going baby. My
3rd is the same way and we very definitely have a bond. More
likely, you have just exposed her to many people and situations
as a baby and she is accustomed to strange faces. My daughter
is 18 months now and she has started to go through occasional
clingy phases, but most of the time she is thrilled to go see
one of her ''friends''. It sounds like your daughter is as social
as mine so enjoy it now because in a couple years she'll be
bugging you for playdates every day!
My six-month-old is already experiencing a strong bout of
separation anxiety, especially when I leave her at the
childcare center in my gym. The instant I put her down, she
starts crying, which continues until the staff pages me
(about 10-15 minutes later). I always make sure she is fed
and rested, and I have tried hanging out with her for 20
minutes or so before leaving, but nothing seems to help. My
2 1/2-year-old will try to talk to her and play with her while I'm
gone, but this doesn't help either. I'm somewhat resigned to
the fact that there's not much I can do here, that this will just
have to work itself out on its own, but at the same time, I'm
desperate for a break from my two children, and going to the
gym is the only consistent way I can get it. Should I keep
trying a couple of times a week, and maybe she'll get used
to it? Or should I wait a month and try again then? Also, she
often cries if someone else (she's fine with my husband, but
not my mom) is holding her and I am not in her sight, so I
have the feeling that her anxiety may get worse at this point.
Any suggestions on dealing with this situation would be
mom needing a workout
At 6 months, my son suddenly developed separation anxiety that
coincided, unfortunately, with a visit from my mother. It was
his Mama or Nobody and he shrieked if I put him down or left the
room. He wouldn't even let his grandma hold him. I was
embarrassed and disgusted. It disappeared as quickly as it
appeared, about 2 weeks later, with no lasting effects on
My 5 month old daughter seems to have developed some separation/stranger
anxiety. I've left her with a friend's nanny for a few hours at a time
over the past week or 10 days and each time, she starts hysterical crying
as soon as she realizes I'm gone, and she stops only when she has
exhausted herself or I return. I have confidence that the nanny is
trying all appropriate soothing techniques, like rocking, walking,
pacifying, feeding, etc. I have spent some time with the nanny and
my daughter, and she seems fine while I'm there. Other than this, my
daughter has been a very "easy" baby who rarely cries; she is alert,
happy, social, healthy and active. I care for her full time, and she
spends time with my husband (her father) evenings and weekends. There was no
problem about a month ago, when we had a babysitter in our home for a
couple of evenings, or when I'd put her in childcare at the gym for a
few hours at a time. But she has not been apart from me (except for
sleep and the nanny) for more than an hour in several weeks. Is this
normal separation anxiety, or is something else going on? Isn't it
early for her to experience separation anxiety? Is there anything I can do to
ease her into this situation? Some have suggested that it is too early for
her to be away from me, but many moms are back to work by her age! I worry
that this problem might get worse as she gets older if she does not get
exposure to other caregivers now. Has anyone else had a similar situation?
Any suggestions and advice would be appreciated. Thanks.
I had the same experience with my daughter (now 11 months) when she was
about 5 and a half months old. Yes, it's just separation anxiety. At 4
months, she was the pass-around darling of many parties. At 5-6 months, she
suddenly began to scream her little head off when I left the room. Here are
1. Her utter terror of strangers has faded, although it has not gone away.
2. Although it took a while, she got to know her babysitter, got
comfortable enough with her grandma, etc. that I could leave her with them,
and she would have a good time.
3. I've learned what sort of comfort she needs with new people. If friends
come over to visit, I let her watch from across the room for a while,
usually sitting on my lap. When she's comfortable with them, she'll start
making eye contact and connecting with them, and will crawl or walk over to
them to meet them. But she needs some time to get comfortable with
4. When I leave her with her sitter -- who she adores -- she will always
cry for a little while, just to let me know I'm abandoning her. Then she
has a great time.
5. Overall, I don't feel that the appropriate response is either to stay
with her all the time or to force her to spend more time away from me.
Rather, I try to give her as much support and attention as I can, and also
to help her to be comfortable with other people. So far, it seems to be
Regarding separation anxiety. My daughter who is now 9.5 mos. was
very much like your child at an early age. I went back to work at 6 mos.
part time, and thought I was going to die, because the few times I left her
with someone, it was not a good experience for her. I did transition her
slowly into the situations, and it took probably about one month before she
was really comfortable with the nanny. Now they are best of freinds, and
what I have found is that she is much better at tranisitioning now then
ever (with new people), and this at a time when separation anxiety for
babies starts to peak. So either she got it really early, or she has
learned to be more relaxed around strangers. I guess my advice would be
to transition slowly into the situation, stick with the same person, be
somewhat consistent (e.g. i work the same two days every week, it is not
sporadic, so she doesn't "forget" the person), and give it time. At least
in my case, it has worked out beautifully, and my child's life is now
enriched in my opinion, but it was definitely rough at first.
My seven year old is going through separation anxiety again. Is
this a normal phase for this age? She is in second grade and is
doing well in school. We have discussed some issues with some
bullies at school and some issues have been solved. She has been
crying when we drop her at school and also in line when she
walks into the classroom. Her teacher told me that other
students are going through the same thing. Parents of school-age
kids - is this happening with you?
i am not sure about the teachers response. Ask her to
explain. I think if a bunch of kids are going through the same
thing there may be some fire there. 7 is a tough age I think
,but don't give up that there may be something more afoot
with the bully. Good luck. It is not easy to watch in the a.m. A
book, Oh my baby liitle one ,might help start a discussion
about separation. or try a morning ritual that you guys adopt.
Something you can easily do every day. Also, how is she
when you pick her up? My son was so angry that I left him at
all ( he was little though). Well good luck again.
I have a daughter, age 5, who has only recently shown signs of
separation anxiety in her kindergarten class. There are no
problems at home or unusual circumstances in her personal
life. My daughter is healthy, comes from a loving family, no
siblings but a close extended family. We're perplexed since she
has been in the same daycare since age of 2, she is in the same
kindergarten class since September and has always LOVED school.
Fortunately, she has a very good teacher who has provided
excellent support. I'd be interested in hearing about other
similar situations out there and possible suggestions of ways to
get around this. School ends soon, however, in the immediate
future, this is frustrating for everybody.
I was just talking with some friends about the end-of-the-year
blues. Anticipating leaving K (or any grade) and the transition
to the new grade can be very scary. I bet your child is
manifesting this through not wanting to leave you. (Your child
may also be nervous about summer plans/activities) I would ask
your child about feelings about first grade. Also ask the
teacher to see what they do to prepare for the transition. At
my kids' school each of the K classes visits each of the 1st
grades and the 1st grade teacher reads them a story. If the
first grade is in a different part of the school with a
different playground, maybe you could spend some time there
before/after school. Good luck!
I have this suspicion that separation anxiety can come at
various stages in development -- not just when the kid is
little. My daughter, after years of being really easygoing,
developed it when she was around 7. At first, I resisted her
demands for lots of attention and reassurance when we
parted. She is 8 now and it's not as bad, but she still
demands lots of hugs and kisses before I go, even if she's
somewhere she likes and has visited repeatedly (like
school!). I just go with it, but let her know that it can't go on
for more than a minute or two.
Maybe what's going on with your kindergartner is that she's
maturing and realizing that the world is puzzling and
sometimes disturbing and that her need for reassurance
manifests itself in inconvenient ways such as separation
anxiety. I would just give her what she's asking for -- with
limits on how much time you will spend reassuring her. I
think she is changing and the anxiety will gradually subside
as she puzzles out the world around her. There's no magic
bullet -- the separation anxiety just sounds like a pretty
normal part of growing up.
this page was last updated: Jan 4, 2009
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network