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How to Alleviate Separation Anxiety in Twin Toddlers?
April 15, 2009 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Any suggestions for separation anxiety in twin toddlers?

My wife and I went to Dallas (from NY) with our 14-month old twins last week. I returned home with my son on Monday morning and she will return with our daughter on Friday evening. This is the first time the kids have been separated for more than an hour or two at a time.

Since Monday evening, they've both been heartbroken and inconsolable. They constantly look for each other, whine, cry and want to be held and cuddled. They aren't sleeping or eating well, either. It's as if they're grieving. We feel like the worst parents in the world.

I realize that they only have two days left, and the best possible advice might be to simply let them go through whatever they need to. But I'd like to try to comfort them and attempt to alleviate their sadness and loneliness if possible.

Can anyone suggest ways we can possibly do this?

We've been trying to keep them distracted with toys, books and videos. But that doesn't help their sleeping and feeding situation.

Friends have been suggesting dosing them with medication (Benadryl, Baby Motrin, etc.,) and/or taking them into our bed(s), but frankly, I'm not thrilled with either idea. The kids have never slept in our bed and I'm concerned about establishing a behavioral precedent. Dosing them just seems wrong, somehow. At this point, I think we would be willing to do either or both if necessary, if we really felt it would help.
posted by zarq to Human Relations (25 answers total)
 
The kids have never slept in our bed and I'm concerned about establishing a behavioral precedent.

...I can't imagine that in 20 years from now you're going to regret letting the kid sleep in your bed for two nights
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:45 AM on April 15, 2009 [8 favorites]


Have you tried a phone call and letting them babble to each other?
Other than that I don't have a lot of ideas off the top of my head, but I do want to say that dosing them with anything is a bad idea. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is dangerous in children that young. Ibuprofen (Motrin) is not a sedative and will not help them unless they in physical pain raather than emotional pain.
posted by TedW at 7:47 AM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


The issue is that we might then have to wean them off it, as they will likely prefer it to the crib.

(I'm also a little concerned about rolling over on top of him in my sleep.)
posted by zarq at 7:47 AM on April 15, 2009


Is Skype an option? They might really enjoy seeing each other for awhile each day that way.

I also recommend pictures of their sibling. Set up a picture at the table and share the meals with the absent child. You can have fun, make it a party with a phone call connection and see if it doesn't brighten up the time for the children. Similarly at bedtime you could put the picture by the bed and say goodnights to everyone.

My own opinion is that it's not "wrong" to give your child some Motrin to help with sleep or similar issues. But I think in this situation it would be more effective to placate the completely understandable longing your children are having for their sibling (and parent) with the best 2-D versions you have available.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 7:57 AM on April 15, 2009


Have you tried a phone call and letting them babble to each other?

We did, but they refused to babble on cue. But... now that I think of it, Skype might work. They'd be able to see each other. I'll try it, thank you. :)

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is dangerous in children that young.

I had no idea. THANK YOU! Sincerely.

Ibuprofen (Motrin) is not a sedative and will not help them unless they in physical pain raather than emotional pain.

Makes sense. I won't use it, then. Thank you for this, as well.
posted by zarq at 7:58 AM on April 15, 2009


Is it possible you and your wife can each set up a Skype account? You can sign up for free, and make a phone date. Skype can also handle video conferencing, so your twins can see each other. That might help them out? Maybe there's a net-bar in Dallas?
posted by HabeasCorpus at 8:02 AM on April 15, 2009


You won't squash your kid. I don't pretend to understand not wanting to sleep with one's small kid, but, if you're worried about establishing precedent -- that sort of thing doesn't make a lot of sense in an already different environment like the one you've got going at the moment. Even a 14mo can understand no sibling = sleep with Dad; normal life = sleep in crib. Nth that the drugs are a bad idea; they wouldn't even help. But you could try candy.
posted by kmennie at 8:05 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I third just giving them the comfort that they need - even if it includes sleeping in your bed. You can always insist that they go back: "Now that your brother/sister is back, it's time to go back to your regular bed". No big deal. It will help them feel better, you'll probably enjoy the closeness with them, and there's no down side.

I would say, though, that Skype may or may not be helpful. They are used to touching, playing, smelling, etc. Skype might be more like a Tantalus-ian torture.

Other than that - no other thoughts. Luckily it will be over soon.
posted by crapples at 8:24 AM on April 15, 2009


It's two nights. This is not precedent setting. Our daughter sleeps in our bed on occasion and goes right back to her own bed the next night (or even in the middle of the night after one of us transfers her). She knows that sleeping with us is special and different and not the norm. If this was going to be a week or longer I might start worrying about precedent.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:37 AM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


What about a special stuffed animal to temporarily take the place of the sibling? Then they'd have something physical they could each hold close.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:40 AM on April 15, 2009


The kids have never slept in our bed and I'm concerned about establishing a behavioral precedent.

But it's a good idea.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:52 AM on April 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Seconding that two nights is not that long - if he wants to come into your bed afterwards, just say no. Another option is if you have a guest bed or futon, you could both lie down there and transfer him to his own bed (and you to yours) after he is asleep. I have slept in the guest room with my daughter when she is sick (much too old and large to be sleeping in our bed with hubby and I) and with our dog (who is not allowed on our bed, but is permitted on the guest bed although he rarely gets on it unless I am there too)
posted by metahawk at 10:30 AM on April 15, 2009


Nthing let your kid sleep with you. You'll both feel better. Your son will not refuse to leave your bed once sister is home. Really!
posted by bluedaisy at 10:40 AM on April 15, 2009


I wouldn't worry about two nights turning into an always thing (although there is the problem that once is special, twice is a routine!), especially given the circumstances.
posted by leahwrenn at 10:44 AM on April 15, 2009


What about a special stuffed animal to temporarily take the place of the sibling?

Or a large girl/boy doll?
posted by orange swan at 11:27 AM on April 15, 2009


(Just an observation that is reflection whatsoever on you, your SO, or your no doubt excellent parenting skills:)

Often when I've witnessed parents (primarily my own family members) who are concerned about anxiety in their children, the children were only modeling their parents behavior. For example, my nephew used to freak out whenever his mom left him with other people -- to the point where she wanted to get him psychiatric help. But the truth was that he was fine after a few minutes, and his "anxiety" was just a reflection of her constant and vocal fears that he SHOULDN'T BE WITHOUT HIS MOTHER EVER.

For what it's worth, in the long run the occasional temporary separation -- even if it causes some anxiety -- would seem to me to be a positive thing.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:09 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


You won't squash your kid.

That's interesting. Our pediatrician warned us against it, citing potential squashing and SIDS -- specifically because they were preemies. 14 months later, they're both normal sizes and weights, so the preemie factor no longer applies.

I don't pretend to understand not wanting to sleep with one's small kid...

I suspect that we'd have done so in a heartbeat if it weren't for the health concerns. Now we're a little wary about disrupting their and our sleep schedules. My wife and I discuss this every once in a while. My take on it is that I can't imagine we can't be *more* disrupted than we already are. The kids certainly sleep in our arms and on top of us (on the couches, or in a rocking chair) often enough. :)

...if you're worried about establishing precedent -- that sort of thing doesn't make a lot of sense in an already different environment like the one you've got going at the moment. Even a 14mo can understand no sibling = sleep with Dad; normal life = sleep in crib.

This makes total sense. Thank you for that, and for the links. (I think I'm gonna wait to experiment with sugar water until the weekend, though. He's already wired enough without it!)
posted by zarq at 12:42 PM on April 15, 2009


MacGuillicuddy and HabeusCorpus, thank you. They're staying with my in-laws, who already use Skype to talk to the kids. We're going to try it! :)

Crapples, if it makes things worse, well, I was warned. :) Thank you!
posted by zarq at 12:47 PM on April 15, 2009


It sounds as though you need to make plans to educate them about being apart. It is important -- how would they have coped if one had to be hospitalized?

For now, talk about the time when they get back together. "The day after tomorrow" may be meaningless noise at this age, but calm confidence that they will be back together at a definite time should get through. Treat it as no big deal.

Try to keep the lid on your own worries -- kids that age normally actually get enough to eat and enough sleep. There is no need to tempt them with little treats to eat all day, and then worry that they don't eat their supper.

If you think co-sleeping makes sense, the obvious caveats are: not if you have been drinking or are very tired, and don't put a protective arm across a little chest.
posted by Idcoytco at 2:08 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can they do a videochat on your laptops? If not, lots of phone calls.
Have them choose & buy a present for the sibling.
Have them make a scrapbook to show the sibling (collect leaves, bus tickets, etc from the remainder of the trip).
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:10 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


14 months later, they're both normal sizes and weights

Then I would be more worried about a flying toddler elbow to the face or a knee to daddy's groin. Why do small kids sleep so...actively???
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:34 PM on April 15, 2009


Have them choose & buy a present for the sibling.
Have them make a scrapbook to show the sibling (collect leaves, bus tickets, etc from the remainder of the trip).


These are great ideas for when they're older. Currently they know perhaps five words between them and only just started walking a couple of months ago. And I'm pretty sure that if I asked one of them to give me a gift for their sibling right now, they'd hand me a pre-moistened cheerio. :D

But the suggestion is appreciated. Thank you.
posted by zarq at 3:47 PM on April 15, 2009


kmennie: "You won't squash your kid. "

Tell that to this couple from my area.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:58 PM on April 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have twins. Sleep with your kid and stay in close physical contact until you're all together again. No amount of explaining will help this. Keep fun, easy and low stress things to do on the schedule, but be very available so whenever there's a moment, be close and give your toddler a hug and the words that they would if they could ask the question: "Mommy and twin will be home soon".
posted by kch at 10:59 PM on April 15, 2009


Okay... after a sleepless week... here's what worked, and what did not.

Worked:

Skype: My daughter saw *me* and grinned. Huge smiles. Babbling. I sang to her and she rocked back and forth and clapped. She completely ignored her brother. Her brother saw *her* and laughed. Babbled at her nonstop and was generally thrilled. They both cried when my wife and I ended the skype call. But each slept an extra hour or so each night... which is to say, three instead of one or two.

Photos: But only for my daughter, who stared at her brother, pointed and said "Bay-BEE" over and over again.

Hugs and cuddles: Of course. But not always, and the effects didn't last very long.


Did not work

Co-sleeping: We both took them into our beds, and none of us slept. My wife and I were concerned they'd roll or crawl out of the bed, which turned out to be a valid concern, as we each spent quite some time trying to prevent them from falling off the edge. Also, my son accidentally smacked me with a fist to the face so hard that he gave me a nosebleed.

Dolls / Stuffed Animals: They ignored them.


In the end, we just had to be patient. Thank you, everyone who made suggestions!!!!
posted by zarq at 3:49 PM on April 20, 2009


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