Separation Anxiety & Sleep Struggles


My 19-month-old had been a good sleeper until a month ago when she started waking up every night for seven days. She has been very clingy to me as well. She follows me around and gets upset even when I just leave the room. A few weeks before this began, my parents visited with us from abroad and they stayed for three weeks. My daughter bonded well with them; could their leaving have caused her distress? How do I handle her night waking and her clinginess?

Dr. Greene`s Answer:

Kids often go through another round of separation anxiety at that age and one good way to handle the night wakening is to give them an opportunity to hear your voice. You can record yourself reading stories or singing lullabies and then turn this on for her at night when she is feeling alone or scared. Depending on the cassette player or CD, she might even be able to turn it on herself.

During the day, separation games can help, such as hiding and finding things or playing peekaboo, or jumping out of the room, then jumping back in all smiles after progressively longer intervals.

When you do leave her, it is a good idea to tell her when you will be back. If there is a way for her to connect with your parents, such as through webcam chats, that may help to reduce her anxiety. She may be afraid now that when people leave, she will not see them for a long time, so she clings and wants to be very close.

Medical Review on: February 12, 2009
About the Author
Photo of Dr. Alan Greene
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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