Parent Questions: My 7-month-old baby cries every time I leave the house. My husband can't watch her at all because she screams for hours while I'm away. Is it possible that she's in a mommy-only phase, even though she's so young? What can I do to help her? Tanya
It certainly sounds as if your daughter is over anxious about you leaving. For normal separation anxiety, the anxiety dispels after 5 or 10 minutes. Therefore, typically when Mum rings to check, she is told that all is well and the child is busy playing, all forgotten for the moment. In this situation the anxiety is more severe, the best way to help her is really through practice.
As simple as this sounds it is certainly a technique that works well for anybody experiencing anxiety. By this I mean, set up numerous practice situations where you exit the house for varying amounts of time. It is essential that when doing this practice leaving as you would if going for an hour or more. With a ‘see you later’ etc, make sure you say goodbye, however be careful not to draw it out. Then you can maybe go into the yard for a few minutes, or walk around the block or drive to get milk and come back. Basically set up lots of little situations for your daughter to practice coping with you leaving. Whoever is left in the house needs to be prepped to help your daughter say goodbye with lots of smiles, waves and then back to an activity. Their reaction is crucial in this situation. If they are going to make a big deal of you leaving and pay her extra attention with lots of copious distractions then she will feel the difference in mood and respond. Make sure they are calm, happy and not at all concerned about either you leaving or your daughters’ response. This is very important, as your daughter will learn to model her behaviour. When she is coping well then extra attention needs to be given to her at this time and praise for coping well. She will over time extinguish the severe anxiety reaction to you leaving. If you need some extra strategies or help I suggest you see a psychologist to coach you through this and improve this for your daughter.