Wednesday, May 30, 2012
No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution
A couple of months ago I reviewed the No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. Within a short amount of time the author herself contacted me and offered me the chance to review another one of her books. How could I refuse? Unfortunately I have taken my sweet time to actually get to it, but here it is nonetheless!
The first few times Clark and I went on dates my heart broke leaving Michael. (I must confess it still does.) One of the reasons, however, was because it seemed Michael just didn't want us to go. While he enjoys time with his babysitter Sandy, when it came time for any sort of sleep or scheduled type thing (such as eating), I would hear tell of his fussing and crying. The last time we went out we came home to hear a baby screaming every five minutes when he would almost fall asleep. It made me not want to go out ever again until he was old enough to understand we'd be coming back.
So when Elizabeth offered me a chance to pick from her list of books, I was ecstatic to see she had one about separation anxiety. Many people will just leave and let the baby scream, knowing that after a while he or she would calm down and accept the fact that mama and dada are gone. As you may know, letting Michael cry is not my style. I was definitely eager to try Elizabeth's suggestions.
The book is dedicated to different stages of a child's life. Since the part about "magic bracelets" does not apply just yet, I read the section about the best ways to leave a baby with a babysitter.
The biggest things I found that I had been doing "wrong" was making a big deal with good-byes and returns. My emotions seemed to get the best of me and all I wanted to do was cover Michael with kisses when I left and cover him with kisses when I returned. Little did I know that this was actually making our good-bye a big deal to him, and therefore worrying his little emotions that mommy wasn't going to return and that it was a big deal that mommy was gone.
So, this time I said a simple "bye-bye" and "we'll be back" and went out the door. When we returned it was a little more difficult, since when we came back he was crying and clearly mad that we had left him. But I took him from the sitter and tried to distract him by singing one of his favorite songs, rather than comforting him and saying, "I'm sorry for leaving you!" like I used to.
While it took a while for Michael to calm down and get over the fact that I had "abandoned" him, I do think I saw a difference with our return. However, from what I heard, he still had a hard time with our leaving.
The other thing I had been doing was just handing him to the babysitter. Wanting my last minute cuddles (even if we were only going to be gone for two or three hours) made me hold him until the last minute and then hand him off to the sitter.
This, according to the book, is a no-no.
"If you are nervous about leaving your baby, she will pick up on your feelings. She'll take cues about how to act directly from you. Show your confidence: your baby will be in good care while you are apart and will likely have fun once she adjusts to your departure. So stay calm, confident, and relaxed so you can pass these emotions on to your child (Pantley 39)."
Doing this made Michael feel as though the sitter was taking him from me, his caretaker, rather than simply switching to a temporary caretaker. So, I put him on the floor and waved good-bye, instead of cuddling and then handing him over to the sitter. While this was easier on him, I think it was a little harder on me.
But you do what you got to do, right? Right.
I love Elizabeth's books because they always offer the idea of "not all ideas work on all babies". Every child is different, and therefore every case of separation anxiety is different. The ideas offered in the book, though, seem universal to me and wonderfully met with the idea that you don't want your child, under any circumstance, to cry it out.
Before our date night out, I made sure to stick to a couple other suggestions in the book. Such as leaving the room while saying "be right back", and then returning with a "peek-a-boo". It always brings a smile to Michael's face when I return, and that to me is such a comfort.
And if he started crying, I returned immediately (no matter what I was doing) to say peek-a-boo and let him know that mommy was right there and hadn't abandoned him.
"Respond to your baby's cry-- even if he's fed, changed, and unhurt-- even when his only need is to be held. Don't worry about spoiling him with your love and attention, since quite the opposite will happen. The more that you meet his attachment needs during early childhood, the more confident and secure he will grow up to be (Pantley 25)."
Like the No-Cry Sleep Solution, the No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution always reminds the parent that the child is the priority. It may seem like a "burden" or get "frustrating" for the parent to not necessarily be able to leave as much as wanted, or as frequently as desired, but the child's sense of security should always come first.
So, while Michael is doing better than he was before, it is still a work in progress. If it comes to a time when he's older that I have to read about the "magic bracelet" or substituting a "lovey" while we're gone, I'm prepared. I would rather take as many steps possible to help Michael be more comfortable with separation rather than let him "cry it out" in order to "get over it". And I'm so thankful Elizabeth Pantley offers all sorts of solutions and helpful tips and tricks for these situations.
"There are no absolute rules about raising children and no guarantees for any parenting techniques. Raise your children as you choose to raise them in ways that are right for you. Within the range of your comfort zone, modify your approach for each of your children based on their needs, personality, and temperament (Pantley 19)."