He is one year and eight months. We live downstairs (grandparents live upstairs) and there is an exit door that connects to the genkan (we live in Japan- entry area) before the front door. No problem if mum or grandparents are just in the other rooms which he plays but god forbid they try to leave. No problem if dad (me) leaves even though I look after him for many hours a day. Mum and grandparents used to sneak away and then it was no big problem however now my son is starting to watch them closely to avoid them sneaking away. He even misses mum a lot when she is away do shopping or appointment- stay at home mum. Happily playing with toys makes no difference. What can we do?

To demonstrate that many answers to somewhat relevant questions don't help. He has moderately good contact with many family members. He is already running downstairs and involved as much as possible in household activities- vacuuming, putting up and down temporary barrier and hates being in the playpen- the only punishment that I am allowed to do (it works) and he doesn't really follow being told no. "bye bye" was possibly the most distressing words in the English language for him but not as much now. The situation is bad for him and us although Grandpa seems now to be able leave without hysterics, Grandma finds leaving very hard. It is worse for mum and also him as he ends being carried in a baby sling rather than playing. No answers that say its normal or try to make feel better please. I am fine except for the his extended crying when mum has to leave without him. As I said it is mostly the leaving not the separation so how to make adults leaving easier for him?

  • 3
    This is perfectly normal behaviour. Toddlers often have this - even up to 3 or 4 years old and beyond. See parenting.stackexchange.com/q/29000/316
    – Rory Alsop
    Apr 18, 2017 at 11:50
  • I definitely understood this as a problem with him crying over some adults leaving, and not about him being indifferent about you leaving. But looks like some others got the wrong message. It'd help if you add an edit at the end to specifically address this confusion.
    – learner101
    Apr 20, 2017 at 6:23
  • Sounds a lot like separation anxiety, which has been covered in a lot of questions here. See if one of these helps you: parenting.stackexchange.com/search?q=separation+anxiety
    – learner101
    Apr 20, 2017 at 6:28

1 Answer 1


It is perfectly normal for children to act this way. It could be that in fact, he totally trusts that you will return -- this might be a great compliment.

Even if that is not the case, it is a developmental stage and as long as you are okay with it, it will work out well. If you do not react like you are hurt or upset, your relationship with your child should be fine. If you do act upset, that can drive a wedge between you.

When my daughter told me a few times (over twelve years) that she did not love me anymore, I replied, "I love you enough for both of us. That is why I am saying 'No' to your request". I did not argue with her, after all they were her feelings and I knew she was upset. I did not accept it as the truth for all time. It quite likely felt true to her in that moment. No relationship is perfect in every moment, but the moments do ultimately add up on the plus side with a parent's loving guidance.

Working at the relationship with your toddler never hurts. Be the person who does something special -- it could be his bath or that specific game that only the two of you play. You could be the one that takes him to the pond to watch the fish, or the one that points out the squirrels or lizards or turtles... You can make magic happen in a natural and positive way.

In my opinion, love multiples -- the more you give, the more you have. Love is a circle. Children rarely break the circle permanently because they are bonded to parents -- but it does help if you strengthen that bond with loving attention.

That said, loving discipline is an important part of parenting. You still have that responsibility and do not think that being the 'nice' parent will 'buy' you more love. Children feel safe when the discipline is fair and understandable. It shows them that you care and that you are looking out for them. If you would like to read more about it, here is an article on children feeling safe due to loving discipline.

  • It is not working out well as he ends up being carried (carried in a baby sling) and missing out playtime. It doesn't worry me that he doesn't get upset about me leaving rather that he is so upset about other adults leaving. Note it is mostly leaving not non-presence that causes him to be upset. Why is normal a relevant thing? Apr 18, 2017 at 23:30
  • @user2617804, the only reason normal matters is you don't have to worry about it, but that does not mean you have to like it. I thought you were upset that the child did not care if you left, so that is why I answered with that as the main point. I may not have an answer then. I will think about it.
    – WRX
    Apr 19, 2017 at 0:19
  • I did not ask if it is normal. Apr 19, 2017 at 0:45
  • @user2617804 I apologise for mistaking your intent. I'll leave it to someone else to try, rather than risk getting it wrong again.
    – WRX
    Apr 19, 2017 at 13:44
  • OP could try being grateful and explaining why. I was going to answer, but I also thought he was upset.
    – user27143
    Apr 19, 2017 at 17:36

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