Separation anxiety or fear of abandonment often occurs around the 8th month. Your baby doesn’t want to be separated from you and becomes more fearful of strangers. An inevitable stage in its development, but not often easy for parents to manage. Explanations with Catherine Verdier, psychologist.
Does your baby cry as soon as you leave the room? Doesn’t he accept anyone else’s arms? Does he have any sleep problems, especially at bedtime? What if he had entered the “separation anxiety” phase?
Separation anxiety, also known as fear of abandonment, is a normal part of your child’s development. Most often, the baby goes through this phase around the eighth month. He can’t stand your absence, wants to be in your arms all the time and develops certain fears. It is a rather complicated period to live when you are a mother or father. And for good reason, this phase through which your cherub goes can generate stress and fatigue. But if it is well understood, it can also be very well experienced. This is why it is necessary to learn about the subject to know how to best support your child. What does this anguish of separation or fear of abandonment mean? How does it manifest and how can you soothe baby? We take stock with Catherine Verdier, psychologist and therapist for children and adolescents, founder of psyfamille and author of several books including 50 benevolent activities to prevent bullying at school, published by Larousse.
Fear of abandonment: why is my baby going through this?
Since birth, the child is in total fusion with the parent and in particular with the one with whom he or she spends the most time. At around 8 months, this bond of symbiosis will nevertheless be cut. “At this age, your baby’s brain is changing. He will begin to differentiate himself, to understand that he is a whole person. He discovers his own body and the separation then becomes concrete physically and psychologically. This little moment generates fears and anxieties in the child. Especially when the parent is away. He is afraid of being abandoned ”, explains the expert. It is also at this age that he begins to recognize the members of his close family circle and to make the difference with people he does not know: “He thus develops a certain anxiety in the face of strangers. “
Separation anxiety lasts an average of 3 to 4 weeks. In some cases, this is prolonged and this period lasts a few months. But rest assured, as mentioned above, this is a normal stage in its development. Moreover, this fear of abandonment proves that the bond of attachment is very present.
Also Read: Why Is My Baby Crying And How To Relieve It?
Fear of abandonment: how does it manifest itself?
Your baby will quickly tell you that he has entered this phase. In fact, separation anxiety manifests itself in several forms:
- Screaming and / or crying as soon as you walk away from the child, leave the room, or go to the office
- He no longer smiles at strangers and doesn’t want to be hugged by strangers
- He has bedtime problems, he can’t fall asleep
- He eats less well than usual
- He doesn’t like to be in new places, he needs to feel safe
- He no longer likes to take a bath
Of course, every baby reacts differently. Some people go through this period very easily, which does not last very long. For others, it is more complicated and their anxieties last for several weeks. In the meantime, for Catherine Verdier, this is not the time to put him in the crèche, in daycare, or to entrust him to a nanny. According to the specialist, it is better to do it before this phase of separation anxiety or after, so as not to disturb it too much. As a parent, it is essential to support your baby well in this stage. “When an adult is afraid of abandonment, it is often because, baby, this period was too abrupt or badly managed”, she warns. You should therefore avoid asking him to stop crying or scolding him, because he is sad.
See also: Here’s how to calm a baby in the middle of a crisis
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Fear of abandonment: how to soothe baby?
It is often difficult to calm a baby during this time. This is why it can be stressful and tiring for parents. For the psychologist, there are still some tips to avoid disturbing him completely. Here are those tips:
- Avoid excessively long periods of separation
- Speak well to the child, always explain everything, tell him that you are going to come back, give him a date in number of sleeps for example, even if you have the impression that he does not understand
- Plan for transitions: try to be away for an hour, then two, etc. Give a transitional object, like a scarf or a t-shirt with your scent, to reassure him
- Warn the child even when changing rooms
- Also speak from a distance
- Talk about all this, play small games during the day (like playing hide and seek, to make him realize that even if the parent is not there he is not far), explain what is going to happen
- Keeping benchmarks and rituals, especially at bedtime at night in your room
“If the parents are separated, we avoid joint custody at that age, the other parent comes to the home. Otherwise, be sure to bring the same bumper, the same blanket for example, so that he is not too confused at night in his new room. Once again, also avoid excessively long periods of separation ”, she advises.
If you are hiring a nanny, you can start by spending an hour to three, so your baby will feel reassured, not feeling abandoned. It is also important that they feel that you trust that person.
Keep in mind that this period will soon be over and try to reassure your cherub as much as possible. Everything will be alright.
Journalist specializing in parenthood, Elise writes for aufeminin and Parole de mamans. She is also very involved in the fight for women’s rights. If you only have to remember …