Your question: Why my baby doesn’t have separation anxiety?

My reply:

Hi, I hope this message finds you well. My name is Cesar Guedez, a psychologist trained in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Separation anxiety is completely natural and common in the vast majority of children. It manifests itself between 6 and 12 months of age and tends to diminish after 2 or 3 years of age.

The main characteristic of separation anxiety is the infant’s or child’s excessive fear and worry about separation from his or her attachment figure (1), whether parents or primary caregivers.

When taken away from their caregivers, either to stay with a relative, with a babysitter or in a day care center, the child reacts explosively, with uncontrolled crying.

Some parents may worry that their child does not have separation anxiety. They observe how their baby can be left alone and separated from his parents without any problems.

It is okay to question whether this is normal, as it is most common for children to manifest separation anxiety early in life. However, the fact that your baby does not have separation anxiety does not imply a problem.

On the contrary, it may be a reflection of the fact that you have provided him with the necessary security to be separated from you temporarily, and that he feels confident that you will return, so he has no reason to cry or have a tantrum.

Ultimately, regardless of why your child doesn’t have separation anxiety, there are strategies you can apply to make you feel more relieved as a parent. Parenting is an uphill job that can be quite overwhelming, so it is normal that even the “simplest” things awaken in you the question of “is this normal? Am I doing this right?

Parenting is something you learn as you go along, and with the help you need, whether it’s through a virtual medium like this one or in person with a psychologist or pediatrician, you’ll learn everything you need to ease your doubts and worries about your child and parenting.

What are the symptoms of separation anxiety?

Some characteristic signs of separation anxiety in infants and toddlers are:

  • Uncontrolled crying when held by someone other than their caregivers.
  • Refusing to go to sleep unless their parents are with them
  • Waking up with crying in the middle of the night if they feel alone
  • Crying and distress when away from home
  • Intense fear that something will happen to their parents
  • Recurrent nightmares about separation
  • Physical symptoms such as headache, stomach ache and fever that appear only when separated from parents.

Why doesn’t your baby feel separation anxiety?

To understand why separation anxiety occurs and why it does not occur in infants, we must understand the attachment theory proposed by the psychoanalyst John Bowlby. Bowlby explained that children, from the moment of birth, develop a type of attachment that is shaped by their environment and the style of parenting they receive from their caregivers (2).

He explained that separation anxiety is common: most infants feel worry and fear when their parents are not present. However, it is not exclusive. There are children who from early infancy do not feel fear or worry when separated from their parents, or feel it in small amounts and express it in other ways. There are two types of attachment that may explain why your child does not have separation anxiety:

Secure attachment

Secure attachment is characterized by having clear interpersonal and communication relationships, as well as not being afraid of rejection. Children with this type of attachment have created a positive bond with their parents, which makes them feel safe and protected by them even when they are not present.

This type of attachment is functional, and allows children to acquire independence with fewer complications. They are children who do not cry when they first go to daycare or school and who are affectionate with their parents when they are present. A securely attached child demonstrates that his parents have raised him with self-esteem and confidence.

Avoidant-dismissive attachment

Avoidant-dismissive attachment is characterized by a child’s avoidance and emotional distance from his or her parents. These are babies who do not cry, even when they are in situations of danger or fear, and who are generally not very expressive with their emotions. They are indifferent to whether their parents are present to care for them or not, and feel disconnected from other people.

This type of attachment generally occurs when children are neglected or abandoned by their caregivers in terms of their physical and emotional needs. These are children who grow up feeling insecure and become socially isolated.

What can you do?

If you notice patterns of behavior in your baby that you find worrying, whether he/she has separation anxiety or not, you need to see a professional such as a child psychologist or pediatrician who can address your specific concerns. To alleviate your concerns related to the absence of separation anxiety with your child, you can apply the following strategies:

Create routines

Routines are a must in any home, especially with children. By maintaining set times for your baby’s daily activities, you give her a sense of security that you will constantly be there to attend to her needs. It is important that you set aside times during the day to play with your baby, accompany him before bedtime and read him a story he likes.

Be there for your baby’s independence

Every parent gets emotional when they see their child gaining independence. From when your child starts to feed himself and go to the bathroom on their own, to their first day of school, it’s important to be happy and confident as a parent about your child’s small steps to becoming more independent. It is important for you to be happy and confident as a parent about their small steps to becoming more independent. This will show your child that they should also feel safe.

Teach them to express their emotions

Children with avoidant attachment have difficulty expressing their emotions, to the point that they don’t cry or get scared even in situations that warrant it. It is important that you teach your child the value of expressing his emotions from the time he is a baby. You can do this through images or faces of basic emotions, highlighting that it is healthy to express our feelings and concerns.

In my experience…

Just because separation anxiety in babies is common does not make it a rule. If your baby is not anxious or fearful when you are away, it may be a sign that you are doing a great job as a parent, because you are giving your baby the security needed to feel protected even when you are not present. It is important that you work on teaching your baby the value of expressing their feelings, and give them full assurance of walking towards their independence, as parental love will always be there to welcome your child.

Babies are exposed to many changes, but they are also willing to learn and receive useful information. You can complement these strategies with professional help from a child psychologist or pediatrician. You got this! Being a parent is hard work, but the gratification of watching your child grow and feel secure is priceless. Remember that all this effort is for yourself and your child

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