Relationships Quick Answers
How can I best prepare my 8-month-old infant to be separated from me? She will be spending several days with her father (we are divorced). She does not spend consistent time with him normally.
It’s hard to know how the separation might affect infants without knowing the individual child. The following is some information based on what research tells us about children in general, but it’s important to keep in mind that every child is different. At 8 months, separation anxiety and stranger anxiety are common. Infants at that age are often distressed by separations. They are even distressed during every day separations like going to childcare, and may seem fearful of strangers, so it would not be surprising if your daughter experienced some distress about the separation. However, separation and stranger anxiety are usually temporary. For example, when infants get upset about being left at childcare, they usually settle down within a few minutes. Also, if infants have a secure bond with at least one parent, a temporary separation is not likely to be excessively distressing for them or to have long-term negative effects. There probably isn’t much you can do to prepare your daughter ahead of time because 8-month-olds have little understanding of the future. They are very much in the present.
There are a few things you and her father can do to
make the separation and travel easier for her:
- Try to keep your infant’s routine as similar as possible to what it is like at home. Infants and young children thrive on routine.
- Try to bring along anything that your infant might find comforting—a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, pacifier, etc.
- Recognize that she may be fussier than usual during this trip and may need more attention. Respond quickly and consistently when she cries by picking her up, holding her, rubbing her back, or whatever she finds soothing.
- Be supportive of your daughter and of your ex-husband. Children can really benefit when their parents are able to cooperate and support their ongoing (healthy) relationships with both parents.
Kim Leon, Ph.D., Former Assistant Professor and State Specialist, Human Development & Family Studies, Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
Alison Levitch, Human Development & Family Studies Graduate Student, Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
Last update: Tuesday, August 26, 2008