After a good old Google session with a much needed caffeine intake I was relieved to read that toddler separation anxiety in 2 year olds is a recognised phase and even up into preschoolers. For the past few weeks Florence has got increasingly clingier with me. At first I thought it was because TeamStein Daddy was going away a bit more and so she was a little anxious that I may do the same. Why she would think that I don’t know as I’m lucky if I get to go to Tesco Express on my own!
I put her clinginess down to him being away and then on his return there has been continuous weeks of this same behaviour. So out of desperation one particularly tiring day with my patience waning, I Googled 2 year old separation anxiety. I found several sites touching on separation anxiety carrying on from babies into the toddler years. The NHS acknowledges that it’s common to stretch from 6 months to 3 years. On reading up on it, it’s given me more of an understanding on why Florence is feeling anxious when I step away.
Being very upset if I’m found to be on a different floor to her in the house.
Sitting on my lap or insisting on joining me whilst I use the bathroom
Trying to infiltrate my bed throughout the night in attempt to co-sleep and mainly winning. This is due to my tiredness and concern that her epic meltdowns if she’s placed back in her own room will awaken the whole house when they have school to attend.
Wanting to sit on my lap at mealtimes instead of her own chair.
Keeping contact with me by holding my hand, holding my clothes whilst I cook, chat to people and go about daily life… etc!
Insisting that I be the one that has to sit in her room until she’s asleep, nobody else.
Her requesting me to do most of her self care routine instead of Daddy, Grandma or her siblings.
So I’m sure you get the picture from these signs that I’m not allowed to leave her side and if I do there is a panic in her voice, tantrum, tears or lots of questions as to why I’m doing something else.
After a few weeks of Florence being in this phase, I became pretty grouchy and frustrated with the situation and felt that at times my frustrations were a little too obvious to her. Several nights of sleep deprivation can turn your normal disposition and personality totally around and I tend to take everything out on everybody. I would hope I’m not alone in saying that sometimes parenting can be a bit suffocating. As much as I have always been maternal and truly found being a Mother the most rewarding and joyous part of my life, I can’t help but feel when I don’t have much time to myself throughout the day and night that the expectations on me become a bit too much. It can tip me over the whole juggling of life and parenthood. When she has slept sandwiched to my face I struggle to sleep properly and I become tired and less patient throughout the following day. I find it almost impossible to be patient and end up grumbling to her and pleading her to let Mummy have some peace. This then of course leads to the dreaded Mum guilt. Especially when my little forlorn toddler looks at me when I have a grouchy look on my face and in confusion says ‘ I love you Mummy’.
Just by chatting to other parents going through the same or similar phases with their babies and toddlers does give me a sense of I’m not alone. Being able to talk to sympathetic parents in the same boat and complain and talk openly rather than putting the usual brave face on that us Mums are so good at doing.
I have found quite a bit of research on the web and just reading that this is to be expected at her age has been really reassuring to hear. My others at this age have had other phases or to a lesser degree than Florence right now. This one is pretty new to me in toddler hood and as I have experienced separation anxiety in my babies it has been comforting to hear that it is to be expected as all children are different and their emotional development is therefore going to be different. I think I often do need to remind myself of this and not go down the comparing route.
I have learnt through research that two year olds into three year olds can be expected to show these signs of fear and restlessness when a parent is in another room, when left alone at bedtime, or being dropped off at day care. Florence is yet to start nursery so this will be something that we will have to gauge nearer the time.
Research shows that separation anxiety does decrease as a child ages but they can still return at certain periods of time for other reasons. It is perfectly normal to do this in development and will disappear over time. Try not to have a set time frame on when it will disappear, just allow for regression over periods of sickness, change, holidays, moves etc. Another thing I struggle with is how upset she becomes in such a short period of time, although sometimes that is temper and I do have to try and adapt my response to her reactions. According to research it is all indicating towards us having a healthy bond.
It is shown to help their anxiety by talking to the child through the process of leaving and reassuring them that you do love them and you will be returning. Although easier said than done when you’re just running upstairs to grab something quickly and a meltdown proceeds! It can also help to offer a favourite stuffed toy or soother. We have tried to get Florence to forge an attachment to something like all our others have, and she hasn’t shown any interest in one particular comforter, so we are going to keep encouraging this to help us ease her out of this phase. For those in day care having a fun way to say goodbye can also be positive, something of which I will be adopting once she starts. I’m going to be keeping up with reading into toddler separation anxiety and gaining more of an insight into this phase as it really has helped me gain more empathy towards her and helps me keep calmer, as it is perfectly normal. I’m also working on keeping up her nap times that she still needs, so I get a bit of downtime to regain some patience for the rest of the day.
I will also try and remind myself that this is just a phase, yes it’s a testing one physically and mentally but like all phases it will come and go. I need to try and turnaround my mental thought process and remember we clearly have a wonderful bond together.
I’m sure there will be moments where she forgets to even look back and wave at me, like some days the others do going into school. I will no doubt be tearful about that and long for these days where she wanted to cuddle me all day and night, although saying that just a wee in peace will be nice at the moment!
I would love to hear if you are experiencing any signs of toddler separation anxiety and any tips or things that have worked for you. I feel that sharing is the greatest form of being able to cope with experiencing these stages of parenthood, so please do contact me and let me know as I don’t have all the answers even after 13 years of motherhood.