My Daughter's Separation Anxiety Is Out Of Control

Looking back at my departures, I’ve never tried to sneak away, but am definitely not as confident as I need to be. She feeds off of my energy after all, and when I walk out the door self-conscious and worrying about her reaction, that’s makes her separation anxiety even worse.

I walked out the front door and tried closing it as quietly as I could, but living in a pre-war New York City apartment meant that was pretty much impossible. I took a deep breath and walked forwards to start down our five flights of steps. Yes, today was going to be the day that this mom made it to her spinning class on time and didn’t need to press the “cancel” button at the last minute, resulting in yet another fee. I would forge worth, regardless of my daughter's separation anxiety. 

I stepped forward and then it began. The screaming. The crying. And enough “muhmuhmuhs” to break your heart, wailing out through our front door.

Everyone always tells you that every child you have is going to be different, need to be treated differently, and most certainly needs to be disciplined differently. But it’s also one of those things that you don’t really realize until you’re in the middle of it. For us, we have a large age gap of eight years between our two kiddos, the newest addition being only eight months old. And since my eight-year-old has had so much time on this planet being the only child, we’ve catered to all of his personality traits for so long. Now, we have a new little one to take into consideration each day, and at only just a few months shy of one year, she’s already rocking our world.

Well, more specifically: my world.

This little, strong-willed, giggly baby girl is attached to me in every single way imaginable. It’s gotten so bad that any time I know I need to step out of the house, I feel myself worrying about it all day long up until the very moment I leave, because I know how bad her reaction is going to be.

Whenever I leave the house, I kiss everyone goodbye and try to make a quick shot to our front door. But in most cases I can already hear her, swelling up in tears behind me. It breaks my heart and I so badly want to be there for her day and night — and most of the time I am — but I also need a break here and there for my sanity, too.

Because our first child was so easy going, a huge part of me expected our new little one to be that way, too. It took us by surprise. For the most part, she’s a social baby, but there are times when she doesn’t want any part of hanging out eve with her dad, and screams and cries the entire time that I’m gone.

But, it also occurs beyond just when I leave the house, and happens when I simply leave the room for a quick second, too. She starts crying, and now that she’s mobile and crawling — she comes to hunt me down, too.

I would say that it has something to do with the fact that I work from home and that since she’s been born, she’s been right there by my side. But, I don’t think this is the case, since her older brother was home with me all day as well, and had no problems with being separated from me. He was so different and loved being handed from person to person — it didn’t bother him at all if I left the room or was out of his sight. He would remain calm, cool and collected. His little sister? Not so much.

Because our first child was so easy going, a huge part of me expected our new little one to be that way, too. It took us by surprise. For the most part, she’s a social baby, but there are times when she doesn’t want any part of hanging out eve with her dad, and screams and cries the entire time that I’m gone.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading on the topic, because I’m honestly fearful of her not growing out of it, or how it might impact her social development as she gets older. And I think a lot of it does boil down to me, and how I’m handling our goodbyes. Something needs to change, and I know that it needs to start with me.

The most powerful thing that stood out to me on the subject was a quote that Aaron Cooper, Ph.D. shared with Parenting: "Your child can sense your confidence as you walk out the door.” Looking back at my departures, I’ve never tried to sneak away, but am definitely not as confident as I need to be. She feeds off of my energy after all, and when I walk out the door self-conscious and worrying about her reaction, that’s making her worry, too.

So I’m learning to roll with the punches and learn from each parenting experience that I’m dealt. I’m sure there will be many firsts in our future that we didn’t encounter with our first child, but trusting my parenting gut will lead me to the right answers.  

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