Separations from other people (and our children) are a part of everyday life. These little separations occur throughout the course of our days: we separate when we use the restroom in privacy, or when we drop our kids off at school (or their friend’s or their grandparent’s houses), and at night when we go to sleep we separate until we wake up. As infants become mobile and grow into toddlers, it’s not uncommon for them to display distress when they become separated from their parents. Young children cry, cling, follow, and call to their parents to express their distress. This behavior is normal- it is how children show us that, to them, we are irreplaceable nurturing protectors. Children typically begin displaying this behavior when they are anywhere between 6 to 12 months old. A comforting caregiver can generally soothe or redirect young children and help them feel safe and comfortable enough to explore and play.
However sometimes when children come from families or environments full of chaos, trauma, or unpredictability this normal level of separation distress becomes amplified into separation anxiety. These children will begin to show signs of distress before the separation happens, or out of seemingly nowhere, and often become inconsolable. These children become unable to play, learn, or explore because they are too consumed by their anxiety. These children often need extra reassurance that you are in fact coming to pick them up after lunch, or that you will be there in the morning when they wake up.
The best way to support children who are dealing with separation anxiety is to connect with them. Be present and emotionally available to their needs. Offer hugs even when they don’t “need” one. Set up your day with predictable routines around transitions. Don’t sneak in or out of the door, take the time to say goodbye and hello so that your child learns that you do not mysteriously and unpredictably disappear and come back. Most of all, give these children time: time to adjust to new places, people, and routines.

(415) 524-0645


5299 College Ave.
Suite P
Oakland, California 94618