What can you do short of never leaving the house again?
Elizabeth Berger, M.D, a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist says the first step is to figure out the level of your child's separation anxiety. "Separation anxiety is a very different thing in an 8- month-old and in a first grader, and is a very different thing in a child who is scowling for three minutes and one who is shrieking for 20."
Berger says, "Moms should grasp the cognitive level with which the child is able to understand separation as well as the depth, intensity, and persistence of the child's personal reaction to separation."
Although it might be easier on you, across the board, experts seem to agree that sneaking out is the easy way out. It might "seem" easier because Mom isn't faced with tears and the child doesn't get upset, but in the long run, it isn't what's best for establishing trust and good communication.
But why? Isn't it true that a child won't remember you left?
Carl Grody, MSW, says to think of it this way: "As adults, how do we feel when someone sneaks out without saying goodbye? We feel bad and wonder why that happened just like toddlers do, but toddlers don't have the life experience to make sense of it."
There is an exception to the 'no sneaking out rule,' according to Berger. "A child who does not yet speak and reason cannot understand the difference between your disappearing into a walk-in closet for 10 seconds and your disappearing into another galaxy forever. Mom has just disappeared, and thus the child's panic is harder for both the child and for Mom to manage and counteract. Saying goodbye to a smaller youngster (who is too little to reason it out) is therefore not necessarily helpful or necessary."
Tamar Chansky, Ph.D., gives these tips:
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