Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stranger Anxiety vs Separation Anxiety

I just re-read this post I wrote 2 years ago when my second child was going through separation anxiety.  It is funny because now I'm going through it with kiddo #3 and for some reason, I don't remember the other two being this bad.  My kids sure do have a set of lungs!

I figured I'd clarify the difference between Stranger Anxiety and Separation Anxiety in this post.  Although, a lot of times they do go hand in hand.

Stranger Anxiety
  • this is a normal part of development that usually occurs earlier than Separation Anxiety and may start around 5 months and last to around 18 months (some get it worse than others)
  • child can get upset when he or she sees someone other than their primary caregiver and even if their primary caregiver is still nearby (can be relatives or close friends)
  • child will cling or hide between legs or cry when stranger approaches to interact
  • symptoms seem to peak around 12-15 months
  • reassurance to the child
  • consistency in schedule
  • slowly introduce new faces (may need to be around a few times before leaving child alone with new caregiver)
  • explain to family members or friends so they do not take it personally
  • patience (this will eventually pass)
Separation Anxiety
  • again a normal part of development that usually occurs around the same time as stranger anxiety but maybe peaks a little later and resolves by 24 months
  • child gets upset when separated from their primary caregiver (this is around the time when they realize that there is only one mom or dad and that if they don't see you, you are not there and since they have no concept of time they don't know when you are coming back)
  • can practice separation with short amount of time / distance
  • separate only after naps and feeds so child is not tired or hungry
  • keep surroundings familiar or make new surroundings familiar
  • develop "goodbye ritual" but do not linger or stall
So how do I get little E to not scream his head off at the nursery every Sunday?  He does fine with different caregivers at home.  Unfortunately, I think E has developed a bad association with the nursery because he starts to cry when we approach it from the hallway.  Therefore, I'll have to spend some Sundays with him there to get him used to the room and remove the negative associations.  In the past, we've attended early service on Sundays which was smack in the middle of his morning nap schedule, so that could have triggered this whole separation thing.  We'll have to consistently go to second service until he drops this morning nap.  Then maybe, slowly as he gets older and as we consistently introduce him to the environment, he will get over this.  My other two did!  Let's see how long it takes this time...