Separation is an important milestone, as your child learns that while you may leave for an hour or two, you always return.
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By Sue Hubbard, M.D.
Do you ever leave your child with a babysitter or caregiver? Weird question, right? But some parents never want to leave their child with someone else, and I am not sure that is healthy for either parent or child.
I recently had this discussion with parents of a 3-year-old who was having a terrible time with separation anxiety. While many children go through stages of separation anxiety, by they are 3 to 4 years old they are typically past this stage. When I was talking with this family, they told me their child had never been left with anyone.
I guess as a working mother I was incredulous. Had the parents never gone out to dinner, a party, a concert, a lecture or even spent a night away for some much needed "couple" time? They told me that they would occasionally call in grandparents but typically took their child everywhere with them. (I think there are many places, such as movies, restaurants and other venues that might not want the 2-year-old in tow).
I suppose some would say the child was fortunate, but I really believe that as children reach around the age of 2 they need to begin learning to separate from their parents. Not for days or weeks, but for either a play group, a preschool program, the gym nursery or something where the child is learning a bit of independence.
While some parents are quite fortunate that they don't have to leave their child to go to work every day, the concept of leaving your child for any hour or two with a trusted babysitter should not cause anxiety for the parent or the child. Separation is an important milestone, as your child learns that while you may leave for an hour or two, you always return. There is security in that knowledge. They will also learn how to interact with other adults and children, which is often different than the way they interact with their own parents. (Ask any teacher about that phenomenon.)
Autonomy and independence are typically traits that parents desire for their children. Parents also need to have some autonomy as well. I think this makes for a better parent/child relationship in the long run. Little steps in separating become bigger steps as a child grows older; starting with a babysitter or nursery for an hour or two on occasion is often the beginning.
Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award-winning pediatrician, medical editor and media host. "The Kid's Doctor" TV feature can be seen on more than 90 stations across the U.S. Submit questions at http://www.kidsdr.com. The Kid's Doctor e-book, "Tattoos to Texting: Parenting Today's Teen," is now available from Amazon and other e-book vendors.
Printed in the March 19, 2017 - April 1, 2017 edition.