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Written By: Psychologist Natasha Tanic
Separation anxiety is part of your child’s healthy development and it relies on learning about object permanence.
Young infants still don’t understand the idea that a hidden object is still there even though they cannot see it (ie object permanence).
What Causes Separation Anxiety?
According to Jean Piaget’s theory of development, infants must first develop a mental representation of an object to understand object permanence (that objects still exist even when they cannot see them).
Piaget believed that children become able to form mental representations of objects between 18 and 24 months.
Because they don’t understand the time and have not yet developed an understanding of object permanence, one year olds believe that a parent who walks out of the room is gone forever.
So, infants become anxious and upset when a parent or caregiver leaves their sight.
Separation anxiety means that your child fears that you will leave and never return, which usually causes intense emotional reactions.
Nevertheless, separation anxiety is a normal phase of your child’s development as it helps her learn that separations from you are not permanent.
Separation anxiety usually develops between 10 and 18 months, typically ending by the time a child turns three years old.
The fear may intensify when a stranger is present if your baby is hungry, tired, or not feeling well.
Also, certain life circumstances such as a new sibling in the family or a new childcare caregiver can exaggerate separation anxiety from a parent.
What Does Separation Anxiety Look Like?
Typical reactions of an infant who has separation anxiety include:
- Crying when a parent leaves the room
- Refusal to go to sleep without a parent
- Waking up at night
- Being clingy in new situations and during transitions
- Stranger anxiety
How Long Does Separation Anxiety Last?
How long will separation anxiety last can vary depending on many factors such as a child’s temperament, a parent’s reactions and parenting style, environmental factors, and more.
While most children outgrow separation anxiety by the age of three, in some kids, separation anxiety is a sign of a more serious condition known as a separation anxiety disorder.
If your child’s separation anxiety prolongs into preschool age, interfering with school or other daily activities, he or she may have a separation anxiety disorder.
How to Cope with Your Child’s Separation Anxiety
Your one year old’s separation anxiety may have you experiencing a variety of emotions, from pleasure that your child is attached to you to annoyance and guilt about leaving her.
You may become overwhelmed by your child’s tears, temper tantrums, or the amount of attention your baby seems to need once you are back together.
To make separation anxiety easier for both of you, try to create quick good-bye rituals and don’t linger during this transition time.
Be consistent with the same drop-off ritual each day as routine can help your child build independence and trust in you.
Also, give your child full attention and affection when leaving and when you come back.
Finally, introduce new toys that will provide comfort and help ease separations.
To inspire you, here are some ideas for the best toys for a one year old baby girl with separation anxiety.
1. Plush Toys and Stuffed Animals
Soft, plush animals are much more than a toy to a child.
A stuffed animal or a plush toy is a companion that can provide comfort and help your child to self-soothe and overcome separation anxiety.
Stuffed animals encourage children to explore and manage emotions, build a sense of independence, and practice their social and emotional skills.
Plush Toys Provide Comfort
Above all, your child’s favorite plush toy will provide comfort as it represents familiarity and security.
When your one year old baby girl feels vulnerable, a plush friend may help her cope with separation anxiety and feel less upset.
Stuffed Animals Promote Independence and Confidence
Plush toys and stuffed animals can also provide your little one with endless opportunities for pretend play, teaching your daughter independence, and giving her confidence a boost.
Stuffies Help Your Girl Manage Emotions
Role-play with stuffed toys helps your one year old baby girl act out emotions she still doesn’t fully understand.
So playing with stuffed animals can be an excellent way to help her learn to manage her separation anxiety and other feelings.
Plush Toys Encourage Social and Emotional Skills
Through role-play interactions with stuffed toys, your little girl will learn empathy and compassion.
She will also be able to model and practice behaviors she sees around her.
2. A Lovey
A lovey is a soft, cloth toy that babies enjoy cuddling up to and sleep with.
Loveys (aka security blankets) are favorites among toys when it comes to soothing and providing comfort. Most young children bond with their loveys in order to feel comforted and secure.
A lovey alleviates anxiety and helps your baby girl during transitions. A favorite lovey can lessen stress and help your one year old baby girl navigate separation.
Also, security blankets help develop independence and foster awareness and self-worth.
3. Sound ‘n Sleep Projector and Soother
Sound ‘n sleep projectors create a soothing atmosphere helping your baby fall asleep independently.
When your baby wakes up and starts crying, this toy’s built-in sensor automatically activates soothing music and projects soft, starry light that helps your baby calm down and get back to sleep.
Separation anxiety develops as a part of healthy development in infants and toddlers.
This process eventually gives your child a chance to develop independence and build coping skills.
While your little girl’s separation anxiety may become overwhelming for you at times, keep in mind that your child’s unwillingness to leave you is a sign of healthy attachment. It’s also part of her natural development.
Sticking to routines, giving your child attention, and introducing toys that provide comfort and security can ease anxiety and help your one year old baby girl navigate separation.
Eventually, your little girl will learn that you always return after you leave.