Tears and Fears: Exploring Separation Anxiety in Children

Tears and Fears: Exploring Separation Anxiety in Children

Children often cry when they’re separated from their parents or caregivers. This is not just a random act of distress; it’s a phase called separation anxiety, a natural part of growing up. Let’s dive into what this phenomenon is all about.

Object Permanence:

To grasp separation anxiety, we first need to acquaint ourselves with a concept known as object permanence. This term describes a significant cognitive development in your child’s life. Essentially, it’s the understanding that things continue to exist even when they can’t be seen.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind:

Before your child reaches this milestone, their world is quite straightforward – what they see is what exists. For instance, when they drop a toy from their high chair, it’s as if it has vanished into thin air. No fuss, no drama. Out of sight genuinely means out of mind.

The Shift in Perspective

However, around eight or nine months, something fascinating happens. Your child drops the toy, and instead of forgetting about it, they lean over to see where it’s gone. They recognize that the toy still exists, but not within their immediate view. They’ll eagerly want it back, only to toss it away again, leaving you to wonder if they’re plotting mischief.

The Birth of Object Permanence

This is the birth of object permanence. It’s also the age at which children start experiencing separation anxiety. They cry when their parents leave them at daycare, or their teacher leaves the room. Why? Because now they understand that if an adult isn’t in their sight, they’re somewhere else entirely. Their crying and tantrums are attempts to bring the missing adult back.

The Solution: Keep Them Engaged

It’s vital to keep children engaged with intriguing toys to ease separation anxiety, especially at daycare. Toys that spark their interest and capture their attention are valuable tools. Children at this age love toys they can push, pull, and manipulate – objects that keep them occupied and comforted.

The Role of Parents and Teachers

Equally crucial is the response of parents and teachers to separation anxiety. Slip-away tactics, where a parent leaves when the child isn’t looking, should be avoided. Instead, parents should ensure timely pick-ups and always bid farewell to their children. Teachers play a pivotal role by responding to separation anxiety with love, warmth, and reassurance, making the transition smoother for young minds.


Separation anxiety, while challenging, is a normal part of child development. At Podar Prep Preschool, we understand the role of object permanence and respond with patience and care. Both parents and educators can help children navigate this phase with confidence and emotional security.

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