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Separation Anxiety & Sleeping Trouble in Young Children

​​​​​Beginning in the second half of the first year, separation anxiety can cause many nights with disrupted sleep. During this stage (which can last for several months), a child may wake several times and cry anxiously for one or both parents, often expressing a strong preference for one.

This is a no​rmal stage in children’s emotional development and needs to be managed with a loving and consistent approach. Separation anxiety usually fades away somewhere around the second birthday. Until it does, your child may need reassurance several times night after night.

​​To deal with separation anxiety as a whole, here are a few steps that you can take:

  • No matter how young your child is, let her know in a matter-of-fact way when you have to leave her. Even if you’re only going into another room for a minute, tell her, “I’ll be right back.” One day she’ll surprise you with her own “Right back!” when she’s leaving you for a while.

  • Create a diversion to distract your child’s attention when you leave. A babysitter can help with that by sharing a new toy or giving your baby a bath. Then say goodbye and leave as quickly as possible.

  • When you go out in the evening, try to use a familiar babysitter. If you must use a new one, ask her to arrive before the child’s bedtime and allow a little time for getting acquainted. Many parents make it a rule to employ a regular babysitter one night a week and plan their social activities accordingly. Children usually find it easy to accept such a separation when it is part of a predictable routine.

Last Updated
Sleep: What Every Parent Needs to Know (Copyright © 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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