13 - 15 Months

What’s behind your toddler’s separation anxiety?

Your toddler is biologically and emotionally wired to stay close to the people who regularly care for them. Right now, they’re starting to learn that their needs can be met by different adults in their life. Until they fully understand it, they may experience some separation anxiety. 

At the root of your toddler’s separation anxiety is their fear that you won’t come back or they won’t be cared for while you’re gone. Their crying or clinging may stir a lot of emotions in you, but it’s important to remember that time apart can be healthy for both of you. When you do this, you teach them to trust that you’ll return and that other people can take good care of them, too ❤️

4 things to know about separation anxiety

  • It affects some children more than others. Not all toddlers experience separation anxiety in the same way or to the same degree. Some toddlers are more comfortable with new situations and new people than others. Your toddler’s temperament, how often they separate from you, and their comfort with the caregiver you’re leaving them with can all influence their emotional response. 
  • It looks different at different ages. Your toddler’s separation anxiety may ebb and flow over the next few years. Their anxiety may even be different week to week or day to day. As they start regulating their own feelings and develop a better understanding of time and routines, their separation anxiety will likely ease.
  • It looks different with different people. Your toddler builds a distinct relationship with each adult in their life, so their reaction when you leave may be different than the one for your partner. Their response doesn’t mean that they love any particular adult more than another. More likely, it’s a matter of how often they see someone and how frequently they see that person leave. If your toddler doesn’t get upset when you leave, they probably feel comfortable and trust the person they’re staying with. 
  • It doesn’t last long. When your toddler starts crying and clinging as you say goodbye, your instinct might be to stay and hold them for just a few more minutes. Keep in mind that this tends to prolong their distress. Separation anxiety is usually fleeting; after you leave, your toddler will likely recover within a few minutes. 

Learn more about the research:

Battaglia, M., Touchette, É., Garon-Carrier, G., Dionne, G., Côté, S. M., Vitaro, F., … & Boivin, M. (2016). Distinct trajectories of separation anxiety in the preschool years: persistence at school entry and early-life associated factors. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 57(1), 39-46.

Bridgett, D. J., Burt, N. M., Edwards, E. S., & Deater-Deckard, K. (2015). Intergenerational transmission of self-regulation: A multidisciplinary review and integrative conceptual framework. Psychological Bulletin, 141(3), 602–654.


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Posted in: 13 - 15 Months, 16 - 18 Months, Separation Anxiety, Behavior, Lovevery App, Parenting, Child Development

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