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Proximity maintenance and separation anxiety – observation clip 1

One year old Leila is playing at home with her mum, sister and an adult who she doesn't know well. She is content to explore until Mum leaves the room. She cries and follows Mum out of the room.

Good for looking at

  • Attachment behaviour
  • Proximity maintenance

Keep in mind

We can never remind ourselves too often that a child, particularly a very young and almost dependent one, is the only person in the nursery who cannot understand why he is there. He can only explain it as abandonment, and unless he is helped in a positive and affectionate way, this will mean levels of anxiety, greater than he can tolerate.

Elinor Goldschmied et. Al


  • Look out for how children maintain their key person’s proximity.
  • How children show their separation distress and how this is handled by their carers.


  • What were your emotions when you watched these clips? (watch clips – 1.5 clip 2 – 1.5 clip 3 – 1.5 clip 4 & 1.5 clip 5)
  • What do you think are the best ways of supporting children with their need to be close and separation distress?
  • How might parents/carers feel if their child is distressed when separating from them? How can you best support them?
  • Do some of your key children need more time with you than others? Why do you think this is?
  • Does being a child’s key person mean being with them at all times?


  • What support do practitioners need (from management, from each other) when helping children through the settling process?
  • What are the implications for practice in managing the amount of time key people spend with their children?

From the discussions that you have had during this session, decide what actions you or your group need to put in place. Including making time to do observations in your setting?


Task sheet - key person approach - session 1.5 Download
Facilitators guide - key person approach - session 1.5 Download