Overcoming Back-to-Work Anxieties for New Moms

Overcoming separation anxiety

Helping Your Baby and Yourself with Separation Anxiety
Before the age of five months, babies usually don't show signs of distress when they re separated from their parents. From that time until about five years of age, however, if you notice any of the following signs, it indicates that your baby may be feeling separation anxiety:
  • Increasing wariness and fear of strangers
  • Increasing distress when you leave
  • Clinging to you
  • Crying inconsolably with a sitter
Dos and Don'ts for Dealing with Baby's Fears
There are several ways to approach your baby's separation anxiety to make it easier on everyone:
  • Do choose a time when your baby is usually alert and happy to introduce a new caregiver. Never begin a potentially stressful encounter when your baby is sick or cranky.
  • Do reassure your child by using a positive tone of voice to explain what's going to occur. Even a baby understands a calm voice. Treat any stranger entering your home in a welcoming way to show that you have no anxiety. You show that you're to be trusted and relied upon more by your actions than by words. Always be truthful about where you re going and when you're returning. Confidence will build when it's clear you're trustworthy.
  • Do arrange some time for a new caregiver and your baby to become acquainted. Insist that the same routine and pattern of child rearing be maintained. Keep photos of yourself around so your caregiver can point at the pictures and talk about how Mommy will be back soon.
  • Do play quiet games before the encounter to keep your child peaceful—no running around. A quieter child will find it easier to say good-bye. You can help your baby understand this process of separation by playing peek-a-boo. This game demonstrates that while Mommy may disappear for a while, she'll reappear.
  • Do give your baby a "lovey" to hold: a favorite plush animal or a security blanket. These help your baby to cope with his fears and frustrations.
  • Do give your baby time to readjust to you when you return. Talk affectionately, but keep your distance until your baby is ready to come to you. Your baby needs to learn that even when she has these feelings, you're ready to help overcome the sense of discomfort.
  • Don't rush when your baby is crying and pulling at you. Keep talking and holding your baby lovingly.
  • Don't worry if your baby is upset. All babies go through this period. It actually represents a developmental step forward because it shows recognition that you two are separate people.
  • Don't be scornful of your child's feelings. Always be sympathetic and supportive, but do your best not to be overprotective. That would curb an adventurous spirit and weaken self-confidence.
  • Don't ever force your child to go to a stranger.
Reducing Your Own Fears
  • You grieve when you leave home—These feelings are perfectly normal. Accept some self-doubt and sadness—it's part of the trade-off. You'll learn to gradually accept the distance between you and your child and to cherish your time together at the end of the day.
  • Express your feelings—Tell your child about the sense of loss and loneliness you feel. You'll probably be putting into words the same emotions your child feels.
  • Talk to others—Other mothers will understand how you feel, and perhaps have some tips to help you get through the day.
  • Locate a child-care center closer to your work—With child care close to your office, you can stroll over and observe that your child is doing well. You can even go to lunch together occasionally, if you think it won't upset your child to go through yet another parting.
  • Take time off—Take an occasional afternoon off to be with your baby. Both of you will look forward to these days.

More on: Work

excerpted from:

© 2005 by Marla Schram Schwartz. Excerpted from The Working Woman's Baby Planner with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon.com.

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