6 Ways to Manage Your Toddler’s Dreaded Separation Anxiety

My son has always been underfoot. Early on I managed his refusals to nap by simply strapping him onto me in a second-hand Baby Bjorn. I’d cook, clean, fold laundry and write while narrating my every action to a ten-pound baby strapped to my chest. By the time he hit 15 pounds, the baby-wearing ended and he simply shouted to me from his swing any time I’d leave the room. Now that he’s mobile he just goes where I go unless his freedom becomes a safety issue, in which case he screams from the playpen until I set him free or play peek-a-boo from behind its sheer walls. In short, I know what it means to have a kid who never wants to leave your side.

It means that by around 11 a.m. you’re ready to go insane.

When Jill on Odd Mom Out admitted that she drank three glasses of Pinot at breakfast “only because the sitter cancelled” I understood her trauma. But if for you, like most moms, morning happy hour isn’t an option there are other ways to handle the stress of always having a toddler around.

6. Make them work for you. You can try training them to do practical things like throw out trash (heck, they like throwing everything else) or you can simply attach your cell phone camera to their bottom and become the next YouTube sensation. This is also prime training ground for the word NO. There’s no better time to teach them what they can and can’t mess with than when they’re trying to get their hands in your business.

5. Laugh out loud, often. Your kid schmears bananas all over his hair? Tears apart your freshly folded laundry? Just stop being so uptight. It’s cute on a baby commercial, right? Get over yourself and lighten up. And if the laundry really needs to be folded, see #6. Kids love learning stuff. Who needs Fisher Price for gross motor skills, right?

4. Get them outside around other people. I’ve done parks, educational activities, mommy groups, you name it. Even grocery stores are great places to teach your kid that there are other human beings in the world besides you. One time he got so into exploring that he wound up crawling into another mother’s lap for two whole seconds. Don’t be offended or alarmed; they always come back.

3. Put your spouse to work. On weekends, they’re all his. Run for the door. If the separation cries really make you feel that guilty, buy your little guy or gal a treat on the way home. Better yet, buy yourself a few treats while you’re out. You deserve it. That jewelry will comfort you greatly during their teen years when the hugs are hard to come by.

2. Create safe nap spaces for you. You’re going to want to drop by about 2 p.m., especially on one of those nap-protest days. Make sure wherever you’re playing is a safe spot if and when your eyes drift shut. Television is an option. The pediatrician who tells you it isn’t obviously doesn’t realize the healing powers of fifteen solid minutes of Daniel Tiger.

1. Meditate in the midst of the madness. Recently I attended a mommy group that hosted a yoga instructor for a free session. There, in the midst of complete chaos with kids aged zero to six running mad, we meditated and did simple yoga poses. Once you learn to soak in the playpen-induced whining as ambient noise, your sanity does begin to return. Just don’t think it’s going to take up permanent residence – you are a parent, after all.

Eventually you’ll come to the realization that you truly enjoy having your child around you all the time. But, be warned: this epiphany is often timed precisely to the moment they get sick of you and discover more interesting things like imaginary friends or paste.