As your baby learns to walk , she is now aware of her own capacity to be separate and she delights in her own world. She is discovering her own reality.
Also, your baby is now aware of how important you are to her and so wants to be with you during every waking moment. It may not be necessary to have physical contact, but you need to be at least within visual range - so she can check back and allay any anxiety she might be feeling about venturing too far away.
If you talk with your baby about having to separate, and acknowledge that it is exciting and at the same time difficult for her, then she senses that you understand her mixed feelings and any pain she is feeling.
This strengthens the bond between you and reduces her anxiety about being apart from you. In addition, if you talk with your baby in a confident, comforting way about coming back soon, she will pick up the emotional message of reassurance and trust you, although she does not understand your words.
Sometimes, when parents have had difficulty with separations in the past, they are uneasy about separating from their baby. One way they deal with this, is to try to avoid the pain of separation by not letting the baby know when they are leaving.
However, rather than the baby not realising that the parents have gone, the baby is acutely aware of the parents' disappearance, and will be very watchful of them on future occasions. Hence, the baby will remain anxious and not able to play happily.
Another way that parents deal with their own anxiety about separating, is to try to restrict the child's forays into the world away from the mother. At this phase in development, your baby has two very active forces motivating her behaviour.
On the one hand, she has become aware of your importance to her, that you nurture and protect her, that you are her secure base and she feels very comfortable with you.
On the other hand, your infant has an amazing curiosity and desire to discover the world away from you. She is trying to juggle these two drives all of her waking time. She can only satisfy her curiosity about the outside world when she is not anxious about being separated from you.
So, let's imagine the situation. You and your baby are attending a playgroup for the first time. Initially your baby stands by your chair, hanging on to your leg. Gradually her grip lessens until it is just a hand resting on your knee and finally she takes off and begins to explore the toys and the other children in the room.
If the mother is easy about this, she will give her baby a nod and smile of encouragement as the baby turns to check that Mum is still there and approves.
Alternatively, if the parent is anxious about the child separating, her face will not convey encouragement but an uncertainty. The baby will pick up on the parent's anxiety and respond by stopping and returning to the mother's knee.
You can see that if this occurs over and over again, the baby learns that venturing away from mother does not feel comfortable and it is safer to play close by.
Sometimes these anxieties and concerns are deeply buried and it is only as we reflect on the issue of our own separation that we become aware of them. Talking over our fears and anxieties with an understanding friend can be very helpful.
Sometimes it is easier to talk with a professional person. Ask your local doctor if she or he knows such a person, or phone your local community health centre.
Of course, babies vary in temperament and some babies are more cautious and others more adventurous by nature. In these cases, the mother's behaviour is still crucial in modifying the baby's behaviour.
A baby who is more cautious will learn to be more adventurous if she is allowed to stay close to her mother as long as she needs to, and her tentative forays are encouraged with a confident "You can do it and I'll be right here to watch."
The more adventurous baby needs her mother to create a safe environment and set firm limits - because a baby of this age does not know what is dangerous. Also, the baby feels more secure when there is a strong message from her parent that "I am looking after you and I will ensure you don't do harm to yourself."
As discussed before, babies vary in their achievement of developmental milestones. There is a considerable emotional component in the baby being able to stand up and walk. Walking gives her the increased ability to test the reality of the world and gain a sense of mastery and control. Babies experience tremendous delight in this new ability.
This sense of mastery and joy is delayed when walking is delayed. Such babies want to discover the world but are unable to explore it for themselves. They may react in one of two ways. Either they becoming passive, not try, it is just too hard; and they become engaging and reward with smiles when help is given and the task is done for them.
Or they become frustrated, angry and demanding. They try to resolve this frustration by getting the parent to assist with retrieving a toy out of reach, or by getting their parent to carry them around.
Parents sometimes interpret this behaviour as their baby being lazy. In fact, they are frustrated because they are not able to do what they want to do for themselves.
Sometimes it requires the parent being patient, encouraging and acknowledging to their baby that they understand her frustration. Babies can be encouraged to move through play and or simple exercises which make the task of learning to stand and walk easier.
Babies usually respond quickly to this help as their muscles strengthen, they become more balanced and they gain a sense of "how to get started". However, if you are concerned about your baby's progress, do discuss it with your early childhood nurse or GP or ask to see a physiotherapist who works with young children.
This is the stage when babies learn how to recognise other people's feelings and intentions. They learn this first from those closest to them. This occurs with emotions, as well as in shared activities, and your baby beginning to understand language.
From this very solid base of mutual understanding, joint purpose and secure attachment, your baby moves on to the challenge of the latter section of the second year - that is, negotiating the balance between relying on others and doing her own thing.
By Beulah Warren. Beulah is a registered psychologist in private practice, with particular focus on families with young children.