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Preparation is the key to soothing separation anxiety, Elizabeth Pantley says. Some of her tips:

FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS

Play peek-a-boo: Babies learn that things can go away and come back.

Practice quick separations: When the baby is relaxed, walk into another room briefly.

Help the child bond with a blanket or toy: A "lovey" is comforting in your absence.

Don't sneak off when the baby is asleep: The child may panic when he or she awakes.

Ask the caregiver to distract rather than console the child: Too much fuss can make the baby feel more unsafe.

Come to the rescue if your baby is crying in someone else's arms: Otherwise the child may resist the next separation attempt.

FOR PRESCHOOL AND SCHOOL-AGED KIDS

Give advanced notice and details about the time apart: Kids feel more secure when they know what to expect.

Dress up as the babysitter beforehand: Play-acting can make the event seem fun.

Create a prayer to help the child cope: A rhyming verse can calm a child's fears.

Don't says things like "don't worry": This plants worry seeds.

Teach relaxation techniques: A child can self-soothe with deep breathing when anxiety hits.

Don't force a child to attend sleepovers or birthday parties without you: Given time, most children outgrow separation anxiety.