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7 tips to ease your toddler's separation anxiety

It's no secret that toddlers can have a hard time saying goodbye to their parents. Especially when they're starting daycare or spending time with a new caregiver. Crying and tantrums are hard on everyone, but the good news is that they won't last forever.

With a few smart strategies, you can help your toddler feel more comfortable in a new care setting—and make goodbyes a little less tearful. Try these seven tips:

Practice separating. Start by leaving your child, even if just for just an hour. Schedule a playdate at a friend's house or have someone else come over to babysit.

Set expectations. Offer a play-by-play of the day, using terms your child will understand. For instance, "We'll go to nursery school after you eat breakfast" or "I'll be home after you wake up from your nap."

Keep goodbyes short and sweet. Give your child a quick hug and a kiss before you leave. Give them your full attention while saying goodbye, and then leave without lingering. Sticking around only prolongs the tears.

Be consistent. Routine is comforting for kids. Try to do goodbyes the same way and at the same time each day. As children learn what to expect, they'll start to feel more secure about separating.

Come back when you say you will. Getting back later or coming back to check in makes it harder for your child to know what to expect. And that can make anxiety worse.

Pick a bedtime and stick to it. Kids are more likely to have trouble separating when they're tired. Getting your child to bed on time can lead to a better, more cooperative mood in the morning.

Expect highs and lows. Some kids can have phases of being more or less clingy, and that's OK. Some separation anxiety is a normal, healthy part of your child's development. But pay attention to signs of extreme anxiety. If your little one is having more tantrums than usual, refusing to go to daycare or preschool, not wanting to leave the house, or seeming withdrawn, let their healthcare provider know.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, HelpGuide

Reviewed 9/15/2022

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