Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is infants’ distress or being really upset when a main caregiver leaves.  This starts a little after stranger wariness (see that article) at 7 to 8 months old and it peaks around 14 months old.  The crying andclinging are normal around 1 year old, and then this decreases as the child gets more used to being with other caregivers.  The infant’s cognitive development is improving as he/she wonders, “Where is my mom going?  When will she come back?”  Stranger wariness and separation anxiety are infant fears that are positive becausethey show that the infant is attached to his/her main caregiver (see article on attachment; Berger, 2018; Feldman, 2014).

I taught a night class when my eldest child was 1 year old, probably the worst time to do this in terms of separation anxiety.  The last thing that I saw when I left was her screaming for me.  This makes you think that your child is crying the whole time that you are gone, which is not true.


I have also been the child care worker taking care of that crying child when her parent leaves.  You hold the child while she cries and calms down.  You explain to the child that her/his parent will come back later.  “Mom or Dad had to go to work, but she/he will come back later.  She/he always comes back.”


If I had called my husband, I would have learned that my child had calmed down and was fine.  Please don’t go back to see if your child is okay.  When the child sees you, the crying will start all over again and it will be hard to leave again.  Calling to check in is good and you can leave a transitional object like a family picture or a stuffed animal to remind the child of home.


Berger, K. S. (2018). The developing person: Through Childhood and adolescence (11th

ed.). New York, NY: Worth.

Feldman, R. S. (2014). Child development: A topical approach. Boston, MA: Pearson.