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5 Tips on Easing Toddler Separation Anxiety

toddler crying

The toddler separation anxiety. Credit: nerissa’s ring

So I recently bit the bullet and joined a gym. One of the main selling points was that child care was included, otherwise I knew that getting to the gym would be seriously tough to fit into my schedule. I knew it would be hard for me to drop my kids off for someone else to watch. I knew it would be hard to rip the band-aid off. And it is hard, especially when your kiddo is crying and yelling out for you when you’re walking away. It doesn’t help that she’s in a super Mommy Phase right now and freaks out if I even leave her with her dad at bedtime. So, yeah, leaving her with strangers was going to be easy, right?

We’re definitely easing into it, as it’s new to all of us. (The baby is totally cool with the whole thing as he’s too young to care. Give him a swing and all is good in the world!) The first day my daughter went for about 25 minutes. Because the first day didn’t go so well, I dropped her off for 15 minutes the second attempt. The third day we went back up to 25 or so. Then I had a personal training session that got interrupted because I got paged back to the child care center. After checking in with her, I was able to finish my session, although I definitely had a lump of that mom guilt.

I took my troubles to the Fit Bottomed Mamas Facebook page, and here are some tips from some been-there, done-that mamas!

5 Tips for Easing Toddler Separation Anxiety

1. Take a class together. I went through this about a month ago when my toddler was 19 months. She cried every day for 8 days when I would drop her off at child care at my local YMCA. Finally, on the eight day, I started to take her to “Mommy and Me” classes a few times a week at my local library and Kindermusik. I figured she needed an activity that required a little more focus on her needs, but it also gave her the benefit of being in the presence of other toddlers and caregivers with me close by. After a few of those classes, she stopped crying when I dropped her off at the gym’s child care. Good luck. It gets better. —Jenn

2. Make a busy bag. Mine have been going steady for the last two years. They are getting bored with it now, but I made them “busy bags” and, we play basketball when I’m done (as if I’m not tired enough). It’s an adjustment, but it works out with patience. —Crystal

3. Don’t look back. I say when you drop her off don’t stick around (and don’t look back). She will be better off if you don’t give into those crocodile tears! I also wouldn’t go at random times because it will be comforting to her if she sees a familiar face that is consistently there. And I’m sure they are used to the children having to adjust; talk to the workers about their opinions. —Bailey

4. Be consistent and start small. We did 10 minutes the first day, 20 the next, then more the next. —Erica

5. Distract. My son was about 14 months when I started taking him to the gym. It was rough. What finally worked for me was giving him a sippy cup to bring and a package of fruit snacks. It sounds like bribery, but it wasn’t. It was more about keeping his hands busy and distracting him as we walked in. He didn’t dwell on me leaving. Sometimes we also brought snacks for the friends there, too. After that, I didn’t have a problem. My now 13-month-old will be the tricky one. I can’t leave his sight at home, so I don’t think we’re ready for the gym yet! —Julie

I know it’ll get easier. And she’ll eventually stop seeing it as torture. Maybe even have fun. I’m also sure that once she adjusts, it’ll be my son’s turn to get into the separation-anxiety game. But I think it’ll be good for all of us. It’s just a serious adjustment.

Any tips from other moms out there for dealing with toddler separation anxiety? —Erin 



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