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Intense Separation Reactions

Published February 18, 2008        by Nicole

Even though your baby has already experienced some separation anxiety, it is likely that she will develop more intense reactions to separation at this developmental stage.Leaving her with a babysitter or dropping her off at a daycare center may be more difficult.Remembering to take a favorite toy, baby blanket or a lovey along may help with these leave-takings.Fear of new situations results partially because of your child’s inexperience with them.

Easy sleep patterns that can be established may be disrupted in this stage.So much time during the day is spent in motor activity-walking and running-that by the time evening rolls around, your toddler is likely to be too overtired to go to bed easily.In addition, you shouldn’t be surprised if your baby starts to wake up again in the middle of the night.This may be because your baby is afraid of being alone.Night-fears begin around eighteen months.They may continue through the third and fourth year, changing in intensity and content.Three year olds can often tell you about the dreams that wake them up.

At these early ages, your baby doesn’t know what’s real and what’s fantasy, so nighttime being alone, and dreams can be frightening experiences.You can relieve some of your baby’s fearfulness by comforting her and telling her that you are there and will protect her.On occasion, even letting your baby crawl into bed with you can give her a sense of security and you a good night’s sleep.

Children’s fears can be lessened through imaginative play and books.Play is a terrific means of working out difficulties your child may be experiencing.Some of your baby’s fears and worries can be worked out through your playing together.Each of you can take turns pretending to be the “scary monster,” which the other one banishes.Some delightful baby board books cast triumphant little boys and girls as conquerors of nighttime monsters.

In addition to books, parents can use puppets to engage their toddlers, and older children too, in lively re-enactments of daily concerns and fears.Playing with puppets removes some of the tension associated with real-life discussions about upsetting issues.By giving the worries to the puppets in the realm of your play, some forbidding topics are no longer unthinkable.Toddlers need a regular bedtime routine.Many parents use the hour before bedtime to read books with their children.Not only is reading to your child known to be beneficial to her later reading readiness, but eighteen months olds find the same routine night after night comforting.Thus, a consistent bedtime “ritual” is good for your child’s emotional growth and cognitive development and may provide a better night’s sleep for both parents and child.

New Advances

As a parent, your role is to support your baby’s move toward independence while at the same time recognizing his need to be dependent on you.Some children have great difficulty struggling to reach the next developmental milestone.Others make smooth transitions from milestone to milestone.Some experts believe that development is mainly dependent on the child’s growth or maturation, with maturation moving in an upward cyclical manner.Occasionally peaks and valleys do occur.

With this cyclical view of development, parents can see how new advances can be upsetting for children.Thus, with advances to each new stage of development, notably with walking, your baby’s behavior may seem disorganized until he is sure of himself and has consolidated his new skills.