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Separation Anxiety In Children: What You Should Know And Practical Tips To Deal With The Problem

separation anxiety in children

As parents, it’s always difficult to see our children suffer from something they have no control over and affects them in a way they can’t understand. A term given to this type of suffering is Separation Anxiety. To assist you in parenting your little one and identifying the problem, we will discuss what separation anxiety means for children, the symptoms of separation anxiety, how to handle your child during this time, and coping tips for both parents and children.

What is Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a feeling of worry of abandonment or loss associated with being away from someone who has been historically important to the person experiencing it, usually a parental figure such as a mother or father. The feeling that something horrible will happen to the loved one. This can be associated with a traumatic experience. If this happens and the child is separated from their parents, they may feel extreme distress and visibly anxious.

Symptoms of Separation Anxiety

We may tend to ignore the signs of anxiety, but it is important to understand how they look and act. So how will you know if your young child is experiencing separation anxiety? When you notice some of this behavior, pay attention.

Here are the general symptoms of separation anxiety:

  • Worried and intense fears, often asking where their mother or father is
  • Extremely clingy and will not let go, many times even during sleep.
  • Unable to be alone for an extended period
  • Shortness Of Breath
  • Exhibits behavior that others find unusual, such as hiding and crying uncontrollably
  • Screaming for no reason or at the drop of a hat
  • Constantly looking out the window, peeking around corners, and searching for the missing parent(s) when they are not present.
  • Children who suffer from separation anxiety may struggle to eat normally, grow in their height or weight, tend to be withdrawn from friends and family, and often develop an intense fear of the situation. 
  • Children may experience physical sicknesses like stomach pain or headache.

When you notice this behavior in your child, it’s important to let them know you understand and to support them through the situation.

What Causes Separation Anxiety In Children?

causes of separation anxiety in children

Becoming anxious when your loved one is gone can be a normal part of life. Everyone feels a little nervous when separated from someone they love, especially children who may feel a sense of security with their parents being present. While it doesn’t possess any serious physical symptoms, separation anxiety can still cause some negative effects in a child’s and parents’ lives. Here are the common causes of separation anxiety in children:

  • Trauma or stressful experiences. Kids who have experienced a traumatic event can develop separation anxiety from it—also any family history of mental health conditions.
  • Over-Protectiveness. Children whose parents overprotect may feel the need to be near them continuously because they are afraid of something happening if they are not.
  • Traits of personality such as shyness, a high degree of introversion, and the inability to speak in public can cause children to fear leaving their parents due to embarrassment or fear of not being able to communicate at social events.
  • Genetic factors can also play a role in causing separation anxiety in children. They may have inherited certain natural tendencies from their parents, which cause them to be overly anxious about being separated from their parents.

Learning the causes of separation anxiety in children can help parents understand their children and how to handle situations.

Tips You Can Make Use Of To Manage Separation Anxiety

While the list of symptoms that can occur during separation anxiety in babies and children may vary, we should all be concerned about how to handle this situation. Although there are some things we can do to help our kids cope with separation anxiety, what will be the best for each child depends on their age and situation. Here are some tips that may help your child:

1. Practice Separation

practice separation

Practice separation as early as possible. When you have a baby, you should be aware that leaving your newborns with caretakers or other relatives for a brief length of time, beginning at seven months, may help youngsters cope with separation anxiety. When you are at home, Begin with quick trips to the bathroom and work your way up to hours of food shopping and work.

Another thing you can do is to leave the room and come back a few minutes later. You should stay out of sight for longer than usual the first time. When you return, give your child a big hug and tell them what a good job they did being brave. With time your child will become more comfortable with the idea that things are not going to change even when you are gone for short periods.

2. Create a Goodbye Ritual

goodbye ritual helps children feel safe and secure when separated from their parents. A ritual is best when the child can understand what happens, what to expect, and how it will end. Key items to include in your ritual are a firm goodbye and a promise that things will be OK when you get back home.

Let them know this is a chance for them to be brave, proud, and independent, as well as develop their security of knowing what to expect next time you leave. When you try to make leaving more of a routine, like going on vacation, your child is more likely to cope with intense separation anxiety because she has learned that everything will work out OK.

3. Return At The Time You Promised

return at the time you promised

Sticking to a promise is important to help your child develop trust. After creating a goodbye ritual, the next step is to keep promises. When you return at the time you promised, your child will be able to see that you are consistent and dependable. This will help them be less anxious when they are apart from you because they know things will work out as planned.

4. Give Them A Security Object

When you leave your child in a new place, for instance, at your aunties home for a few hours, it is important to leave with some kind of security object that will help make your child feel relaxed. For instance, a teddy bear, favorite stuffed animal, fidget toy, or blanket can serve as a reminder that things will be OK when your child is away from you.

He can focus more on the comfort and security of the toy versus the worry of being in a new place without you around. This is why it is recommended that you should leave with an object that reminds them of you since they will know this is hard for you to do and will want to help in any way they can by keeping the toy near them.

5. Create Excitement

Instead of giving them horror narratives about traveling somewhere else, you may generate excitement by telling them positive things about the destination. If you’re dropping them off at a childcare facility, you may speak about how they’ll make new friends and play with them at the center.

6. Avoid Criticizing Your Child’s Difficulty With Separation

separation anxiety in children

We all have different reactions to separation anxiety in babies and children; some of us are able to cope with it easily, while others are unable to. If your child’s responses seem unmanageable, try not to criticize them for their difficulty with separation or react in ways that may cause stress or anger. Don’t ever say words like “you should be ashamed of yourself” or “it’s just an excuse” when you leave.

Instead, remain calm and talk about it in a relaxed environment. During this time, explain to your child that everyone has some difficulty with separation anxiety in babies and children, but this will pass with time. It is especially important to avoid comparing them to other children who may handle the situation better than they do. The most vital thing is to remain patient and show understanding as you help your child through this difficult time.

7. Read Stories With Your Child About Separation Fears

Reading a story about separation anxiety can help your child understand her fear of being alone and greatly assist with coping with the condition. Let your child choose the story and read it repeatedly at bedtime before falling asleep so children will know what to expect when separated from you.

Best books to read include:

8. Praise When They’re Brave About Being Away From You

praising your child

Praising a child for doing something brave, like leaving the room or trying a new activity, can go a long way in helping them feel more comfortable with separation anxiety. If the situation becomes too much for your child, reassure them that everything will be OK and they can come back whenever they want. When praising your child, you can say, “I am so proud of you! I know that was hard for you, but you did it anyway. I knew you could do it!”

As a reward, you can take them to a fun place such as a park or playground or even show them how to play a musical instrument so they can be independent by doing something different when you are away from them.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the best way to help children with separation anxiety is to make their transition to a new level of care easy and natural. Avoid rushed goodbyes, distribute time equally between parents, and try not to make your child feel different from her peers by giving special attention and having long goodbyes. Focus on explanation (to reduce confusion and negative feelings) and positive experiences (to encourage a positive attitude towards school).

In Baby Steps Preschool, we understand that separation anxiety in babies and children can be challenging and exhausting for both parents and staff. But there are ways to resolve it, and that is why we have staff members who are more than willing to help you in any way possible. We at Baby Steps Daycare, being experts in this area of child care, gives parents the confidence to leave their kids in our care, knowing that they will feel safe and secure. If you have any queries or concerns with regard to separation anxiety in babies and children, feel free to connect us by email at babystepsfh@gmail.com.