Separation anxiety is a normal, developmentally appropriate stage that most children go through. It usually starts when a child is around 6 to 8 months old and can continue through the early school years. For some children, separation anxiety may last even longer.
Although it can be tough for both parents and children, there are ways to help your child deal with separation anxiety. With patience, love, and support, your child will eventually get through this phase and be able to separate from you without any fear or worry.
The following strategies may be of assistance:
What is separation anxiety?
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that separation anxiety disorder is one of the most prevalent anxiety disorders in children. It's believed that 4% to 5% of kids have this condition, which can disrupt school, friendships, and other parts of daily life.
Separation anxiety disorder is most likely to start before the age of 6, and it's more common in girls than boys. If you or your partner have anxiety disorders, your child may be more likely to develop separation anxiety disorder too since it can run in families.
Some symptoms of separation anxiety disorder are:
-Anxiety about being away from home or loved ones
-Anxiety about being separated from loved ones or one's home
Anxiety interfering with school or other activities
-Sleep issues (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep)
-Nightmares about being separated from loved ones
-Headaches or stomachaches when separating from loved ones
Causes of separation anxiety
There are many possible causes of separation anxiety. It may be caused by a change in routine, such as a parent going back to work after a period of unemployment. It may be caused by a change in family situation, such as divorce, death, or moving to a new house. It may be caused by a medical condition or treatment, such as surgery. Or it may be caused by something else entirely.
However, some risk factors can increase a child's likelihood of experiencing separation anxiety. These include having a family history of anxiety disorders, being female, having another mental health disorder (such as depression or ADHD), and experiencing major life stressors (such as the death of a loved one).
Symptoms of separation anxiety
While it's typical for most children to feel some separation anxiety when they begin school or childcare, some kids may experience more severe separation anxiety that lasts for an extended period of time. If your child is struggling to cope with separating from you, here are some common symptoms to look out for:
-Your child cries or tantrums when you leave them
-Your child hangs onto you and doesn't want you to go.
-Your child gets very upset when you have to leave them behind to go out
-Your child is anxious when you're not around because they fear something bad will happen to you.
If your child is hesitant to go to school or daycare,
If your child has difficulty sleeping when they're away from you,
-Your child doesn't want to go on sleepovers or playdates.
If you notice your child exhibiting any of these symptoms, it’s important to consult with a professional. Heart to Heart Counseling in Sarasota FL specializes in helping children who suffer from separation anxiety and can give you the resources and support you need.
How to help your child with separation anxiety
If your child is going through separation anxiety, there are a few things you can do to assist them. Firstly, it's crucial to comprehend what separation anxiety is and how it appears. Once you're aware of the indicators and symptoms, you can begin to formulate a plan to help your child. Listed below are some methods that may be of assistance.
Create a positive association with being away from you
One method of assisting your child who suffers from separation anxiety is to establish a positive correlation with being away from you. You can do this by complimenting your child when they are apart from you, and ensuring they receive plenty of positive reinforcement when they are with you. Additionally, make sure that being away from you is not seen as a form of punishment, and that your child knows you will always return.
Help your child feel more comfortable in new situations
There are a few things you can do to ease your child's discomfort in new situations:
-Help your child to communicate their emotions by talking about them. This will assist the child in feeling more in control of their feelings.
-Set a good example. If you stay calm and act confidently, your child is more likely to feel the same way.
-Help them prepare for the new place by visiting it together ahead of time, or looking at pictures together. This way, they'll know what to expect and won't be as anxious.
-Ensure they have a familiar object with them such as a toy, blanket, or photo of the family.
-Make sure to give them lots of reassurance and support. Let them know that you're always there for them and that they can come to you anytime they need anything.
Be consistent in your parenting
It's important to be consistent in your parenting. Children need to know what to expect from their caregivers. When you're consistent, kids feel safe and secure because they know what to expect.
Develop a daily routine for your child and do your best to stick to it. A daily routine gives children a sense of order and security. By having set times for breakfast, snacks, lunch, naps, and bedtime, you can help reduce separation anxiety because your child knows what to expect next.
Keep your goodbyes short and sweet. Prolonging your goodbye will only amplify anxiety for both you and your child. Give your child a quick hug and kiss instead, telling them that you will see them soon.
Make sure to spend some quality time with your child when you get home before moving on to other tasks. This will let your child know that they are important to you and help them feel secure.
Though it's a typical part of development, separation anxiety can be difficult for both parents and children. You can help ease the anxiety and make the transition smoother for all by being consistent in your parenting and following a few easy tips.
Encourage your child to express their feelings
It is crucial to encourage your child to express their emotions, both positive and negative. This will help them feel more comfortable with their emotions and understand that it is okay to feel sad, scared, or angry sometimes. Try to use “I” statements when talking about your child’s emotions, such as “I can see that you’re feeling really upset right now.”
It can also be helpful to normalize your child’s experience by sharing times when you have felt similar emotions. This will help them feel less alone in their feelings and understand that everyone feels this way at times. For example, you could say “I remember when I was starting kindergarten, I felt really nervous too. It’s totally normal to feel like this!”
Seek professional help if necessary
If it seems like your child's separation anxiety is severe or if it's preventing them from doing well at school or in other activities, you might want to get professional help. A therapist who specializes in childhood anxiety can help your child understand and manage their fears. They can also give you strategies to support your child at home.