Separation Anxiety

Background and Causes

Child and adult psychologists believe that pleasant separation experiences in early life act as a sort of psychological vaccine against the anxiety of stressful separations that come later in life. Young children want and need to separate from their parents, but they don’t know how. It has been found that the more attached or connected a child is early on in infancy to a caregiver, the easier the separation process when the time comes.


  • Don’t leave your baby for periods of time that are longer than your child can handle: This will harm the trust you have been building between you and your infant.

  • Don’t avoid the separation process: Although it may be difficult to see your baby upset and anxious, it is necessary that young children are at least exposed to the separation process, even if it is only for an hour.


  • Separate gradually: Allow your baby to separate from you, not you from your baby. When the child ventures off, allow him time to come back. Reassure him that you still exist. Eventually, the periods of time your baby is separated will be longer than the time he spends reassuring himself.

  • Encourage relationships with other significant adults: Your child will gradually learn to depend on a variety of people for help.

  • Watch for signs of separation anxiety or stress: There are times when a baby needs to cling. Sometimes children need that one-on-one contact before they can continue on with the process.