It is normal for your young child to have separation anxiety when you say goodbye. In early infancy, sobbing, tantrums, and clinginess — all characteristics of separation anxiety — are appropriate responses to separation and a typical developmental period. It can begin before a child’s first birthday and recur until he or she is four years old. While the level and timing of separation anxiety might vary greatly from kid to child, it is crucial to remember that a little amount of concern about leaving mom and dad is typical, especially for older children. With comprehension and the appropriate coping methods, your child’s concerns may be alleviated, and they should totally disappear as they mature.
However, some children endure separation anxiety that persists despite the best efforts of their parents. These children continue to endure or encounter a recurrence of severe separation anxiety throughout elementary school and beyond. If separation anxiety is so severe that it interferes with typical activities such as school and friendships, and if it lasts for months rather than days, it may be an indication of separation anxiety disorder.
How To Ease “normal” Separation Anxiety?
There are actions you may take to make separation anxiety easier for children with typical separation anxiety.
- Maintain separation. Initially, entrust your youngster to a caretaker for shorter durations and small distances. As your kid becomes accustomed to the separation, you can leave for longer periods of time and travel farther.
- Plan separations following naps or feedings. Babies are more prone to separation anxiety when they are hungry or exhausted.
- Create a brief “goodbye” ceremony. Rituals are comforting and might be as simple as a unique window wave or a farewell kiss. However, keep things brief so you can:
- Leave without ceremony. Tell your child you are going and that you will return, and then leave without delaying or exaggerating the situation.
- Follow through with commitments. For your child to build the confidence to tolerate separation, it is essential that you return at the specified time.
- Keep familiar environments as possible and familiarise unfamiliar environments. Invite the sitter to your home. When your child is away from home, urge him or her to bring along a comforting item.
- Have a dependable main caregiver. To minimize instability in your child’s life, if you engage a caretaker, attempt to keep them on the job long-term.
- Reduce frightening television viewing. Your youngster is less likely to be scared if you do not watch disturbing television programs.
- Attempt not to yield. Assure your youngster that everything will be alright; firm limitations will aid your child’s separation adjustment.
What Is Separation Anxiety Disorder?
Separation anxiety disorder is NOT a normal developmental stage, but rather a dangerous emotional condition marked by extreme discomfort when a kid is separated from his or her primary caregiver. However, since normal separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder have many of the same symptoms, it can be difficult to determine if your kid simply needs patience and understanding, or if he or she has a more serious condition.
The primary distinctions between regular separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder are the strength of your child’s anxieties and whether or not they prevent them from participating in routine activities. Children with a separation anxiety disorder may feel anxious at the mere notion of being separated from their parents and may fake illness in order to avoid playing with peers or attending school. When the severity of the symptoms is sufficient, these worries might constitute a disorder. However, regardless of how distressed your child is while apart from you, separation anxiety disorder is curable. There are several things you can do to make your child feel safer and reduce separation anxiety.
Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety Disorder
Children with separation anxiety disorder worry or fear separation continually. Many children suffer from symptoms such as:
- The apprehension that something horrible will befall a loved one. The most prevalent concern of children with a separation anxiety disorder is that a loved one would be harmed during the child’s absence. For instance, the youngster may continually fear that a parent may get ill or injured.
- Concern that an unexpected occurrence will result in everlasting separation. Your youngster may fear that once removed from you, something will occur to ensure that the separation will continue. For instance, people may fear being abducted or becoming lost.
- The refusal to attend school. A youngster with a separation anxiety disorder may have an irrational dread of school and would do nearly anything to avoid attending.
- Resistance to falling asleep Children with a separation anxiety disorder may have sleeplessness owing to a dread of being alone or separation-related nightmares.
- Physical illness, such as a headache or stomachache. Before or during the time of separation, children with separation anxiety commonly report feeling unwell.
- Attached to the career. Your youngster could follow you around the home or cling to your arm or leg if you try to leave the house.
Common Causes Of Separation Anxiety Disorder
A youngster with a separation anxiety disorder feels uncomfortable in some manner. Examine anything that may have upset your child’s equilibrium, made them feel threatened or disrupted their routine. If you can identify the underlying cause or causes of your child’s difficulties, you will be one step closer to assisting them.
Common causes of childhood separation anxiety disorder include:
Change in surroundings. Changes in the environment, like moving to a new home, school, or daycare facility, might provoke separation anxiety disorder.
Stress. Stressful events such as changing schools, divorce, or the death of a loved one, including a pet, can create separation anxiety.
Unreliable attachment. The attachment bond is the emotional link between a baby and his or her primary caregiver. A healthy attachment link guarantees that your kid will feel safe, understood, and calm enough for proper development, but an insecure attachment bond can contribute to developmental issues such as separation anxiety.
A parent who overprotects their children. In certain instances, a separation anxiety disorder may represent your own tension or worry. Parents and children might contribute to one other’s anxiety.
Helping A Child With Separation Anxiety Disorder
Nobody enjoys seeing their children suffering, so it might be tempting to assist your child escape their fears. However, this will simply exacerbate your child’s anxiousness over time. Rather than attempting to minimize separation whenever possible, you may assist your kid in overcoming separation anxiety disorder by ensuring their safety. Creating a hospitable environment at home might help your youngster feel more at ease. Even if your efforts do not totally resolve the issue, your empathy can only improve the situation.
Acquire an understanding of separation anxiety disorder. If you understand how your kid feels about this disease, you may empathize with their challenges more readily.
Respect and acknowledge your child’s emotions. Listening to a youngster who may already feel alone due to their disease can have a profoundly therapeutic effect.
Discuss the problem. Children are healthier when they discuss their emotions; they do not gain from “not thinking about it.” However, gently remind your youngster that they survived the last separation.
Anticipate separation hardship. Be prepared for transitions that may give your kid worry, such as going to school or meeting friends to play. If your youngster splits from one parent more readily than the other, have that parent drop off your child.
Keep cool throughout a separation. If your youngster observes you being calm, they are more likely to do so as well.
Encourage the child’s involvement in activities. Encourage your child to engage in social and physical activities that promote health. They are wonderful strategies to assist your youngster build friendships and reducing anxiety.
Acknowledge your child’s efforts. Use even the tiniest victories, such as going to bed without a fuss or earning a decent report card, to provide positive reinforcement for your child.
Tips For Helping Your Child Feel Safe And Secure
Provide a constant pattern for the day. Routines give children a sense of security and help them overcome their fear of the unknown. Try to maintain consistency with mealtimes, bedtimes, etc. If your family’s routine is about to alter, inform your youngster in advance. Change is easier for children when it is anticipated.
Set limitations. Let your child know that while you understand their emotions, there are rules that must be observed in your home. As with routines, establishing and enforcing limits helps your child anticipate what to expect in any given circumstance.
Offer options. Your youngster may feel more secure and at ease if they have some choice or control over their interactions with you. For instance, you may give your child the option of where to be dropped off at school or which toy to bring to daycare.
Easing Separation Anxiety Disorder: Tips For School
Attending school might appear overwhelming to children with separation anxiety disorder, and unwillingness to go is typical. But by addressing any underlying causes for your child’s school avoidance and implementing adjustments at school, you can assist alleviate your child’s symptoms.
Assist a youngster who has missed school to return as soon as feasible. Even if a shorter school day is initially required, children’s symptoms are more likely to diminish as they learn to cope with separation.
Request that the school allows your child’s late arrival. If the school is initially accommodating about late arrivals, you and your kid will have more time to converse and separate at your child’s speed.
Identify a safe area. Identify a location at school where your child may go to decrease anxiety during times of stress. Develop standards for the safe space’s proper utilization.
Allow your youngster home contact. A two-minute phone conversation with relatives during times of stress at school may minimize separation anxiety.
Send your youngster notes to read. You can leave your youngster a message in their lunchbox or locker. A simple “I love you!” written on a napkin can comfort a youngster.
Provide your youngster with help during interactions with classmates. The assistance of an adult, such as a teacher or counselor, may be advantageous for both your kid and the other children with whom he or she interacts.
Reward the efforts of your youngster. Similar to at home, any positive attempt or modest step in the correct path is worthy of recognition.
Help Your Child By Relieving Your Own Stress
Children whose parents are nervous or agitated may be more susceptible to separation anxiety. To assist your child in reducing their worry, you may need to take steps to become calmer and more centered yourself.
Discuss your feelings. Even if there is nothing you can do to alleviate a stressful situation, expressing your feelings may be quite therapeutic.
Exercise frequently. Physical activity is essential for minimizing and avoiding the negative consequences of stress.
Eat well. A body that is well-nourished is better equipped to deal with stress, so consume an abundance of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, and avoid junk food, sugary snacks, and processed carbs.
Perform relaxation exercises. Using practices such as yoga, deep breathing, or meditation, you may reduce your stress levels.
Get adequate sleep. Tiredness exacerbates stress and leads to unreasonable or foggy thinking, whereas a good night’s sleep enhances your mood and the quality of your waking life.
Maintain a sense of humor. In addition to improving your attitude, laughter helps your body combat stress in several ways.
When To Seek Professional Help?
Your personal tolerance and knowledge will go a long way in assisting your child with separation anxiety disorder. However, certain children with a separation anxiety disorder may require expert assistance. To determine if you need to seek treatment for your kid, look for “red flags,” or symptoms that are more severe than less severe warning indications. These consist of:
- Inappropriate attachment or outbursts.
- Withdrawal from family, friends, and peers.
- Obsession with great anxiety or guilt
- Consistent physical complaints
- Not attending school for weeks.
- Extreme reluctance to leave the house
If your efforts to alleviate these symptoms fail, it may be time to consult a mental health professional. Remember that they may also be indicators of a traumatic event your child has had. If this is the case, a child trauma specialist should be consulted immediately.
Treatment For Separation Anxiety Disorder In Children
Pediatric neurologists, child psychiatrists, and child psychologists can diagnose and treat separation anxiety disorder. In order to develop a diagnosis, these trained professionals incorporate information from home, school, and at least one clinical visit. Remember that children with separation anxiety disorder typically present with physical problems that may require medical evaluation.
Specialists can treat physical symptoms, detect worrisome thoughts, assist your kid in developing coping mechanisms, and promote problem-solving. Professional therapy for separation anxiety disorder may consist of the following:
Speech therapy offers a secure environment for your child to share his or her emotions. Having someone to listen to your child with empathy and lead him or her toward understanding his or her fear may be quite beneficial.
The practice of play therapy. Play therapy is a widespread and successful method for encouraging children to discuss their emotions.
Counseling for families You, as a parent, can assist your kid to develop coping skills, while family counseling can help your child combat the thoughts that feed their worry.
School-based counseling services. This can assist your kid with separation anxiety disorder in adjusting to the social, behavioral, and intellectual demands of school.
Medication. Severe forms of separation anxiety disorder may be treated with medications. It should only be utilized in combination with other treatments.
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