Part of a baby's normal development is learning that separations from parents are not permanent. Young babies do not understand time, so they think a parent who walks out of the room is gone forever. Also, they have not yet developed the concept of object permanence - that a hidden object is still there, it just cannot be seen. Without these concepts, babies become anxious and fearful when a parent leaves their sight. Separation anxiety usually begins around the age of 6 months. Babies may suddenly be afraid of familiar people such as babysitters or grandparents. Stranger anxiety is also common at this age, when they are fearful of unknown people. Separation anxiety is usually at its peak between 10 and 18 months. It typically ends by the time a child is 3 years old.
Babies experiencing separation anxiety fear that a parent will leave and not return. The fear may be worsened in the presence of a stranger. Typical responses of babies experiencing this normal phase of development may include the following:
Children who feel secure are better able to handle separations. Cuddling and comforting your child when you are together can help him/her feel more secure. Other ways to help your child with separations include the following: