Ethan willingly followed me to the soccer field, but would not leave my side once we got there. He clung to my leg as I attempted to engage him in the practice the other kids were doing.
“Don’t you want to kick the ball?” I said.
“I wanna go home,” he said so softly I had to read his lips to understand him.
Related post: What to say to an anxious child
I tried telling him that he was okay and not to worry, but imagine if I said that to you. Would you immediately calm down? I have given him nothing to help him work his feelings out.
Some separation anxiety in toddlers is normal. They are still learning about the world around them and haven’t quite figured out how to effectively cope with it all. They are showing a healthy attachment to their parents. Normal separation anxiety can be emotionally exhausting, but there are a few things you can do to help ease the transitions and help your toddler overcome separation anxiety.
Start by building trust with your toddler. Attempt to leave them for short periods of time to show him/her that you do come back. Point out they were safe during that time to help them associate your absence with calm.
Make sure you are consistent with your behavior. Don’t go to daycare with the intention of dropping him off, only to decide once he’s anxious to go home.
Familiarize your toddler with the people around you. In our situation, once Ethan made friends with the Referee, he was much more apt to stay out on the field to play.
Resource: Free Calming Strategies Workshop email course
If these behaviors are persistent, you may need to look for some additional help. My friend, Dayna, from Lemon Lime Adventures, has multiple resources and related posts that can help decode your toddler’s anxiety and give you free calming strategies to work through their big feelings. She is not a medical doctor, but has over 10 years of Elementary Education teaching experience and has done a lot of research on this subject. In addition to having 3 kids of her own. If you are at a crossroads and want to know more about how to help your toddler overcome chronic separation anxiety, I highly suggest you take advantage of these free resources I have linked to in this post.
P.S. Get on The Free Behavior Workshop waiting list now!