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Separation Anxiety in Children: Babies - Toddlers - Kids: How to Help

Separation Anxiety in Children: Babies - Toddlers - Kids

A baby being born cannot fully distinguish what are strangers and parents. But come 18 months and they know what a guardian may look like compared to a stranger. And so in this stage, separation anxiety and kids are inseparable.

During this period, a child may often develop separation anxiety. This usually happens when a child has finally developed some emotional attachment towards his or her parents and thus he or she will feel stressed once the parents are away. Anxiety can often be displayed through crying, unusual silence, clinginess, and shyness.

How to help a child with separation anxiety

Separation Anxiety in Babies: Toddlers age 3 and up

Yes, separation anxiety for a child around 18 months (some babies display separation anxiety as early as 4/5 months of age) is very normal and happens to almost all babies around the world but still, the baby needs to be helped in some various ways to avoid excessive crying and anxiety per se. Read a comprehensive discussion here on → Separation Anxiety in Babies: How To Deal With.

Separation Anxiety in Kids

As separation anxiety in kids can develop a traumatic or distressful event, it can develop a lasting and emotional effect.

Today, parents may come up with different styles and techniques to help a kid ease together with his or her separation anxiety. Here are some of the methods where you can help your baby ease up his or her separation anxiety.

If you are planning to leave or go to a supermarket for some groceries, always leave your schedule just right after the baby’s nap. Researchers have confirmed that babies have less anxiety levels the moment they wake up.

Train your child from being separated one at a time. One great example is to leave your child walking in your living room up until he or she has reached the bedroom. Try following your child after several minutes or even just a few seconds. This way, you are helping your child develop his or her sense of independence.

Develop a consistent “goodbye” habit like kissing or waving your child. Inform your child that you need to go to your work and that you will be back real soon. Do not repeat your goodbye rituals every day especially when you go away because this can only give stress and insecurity to your child.

Maintain a good and positive attitude towards your kid every time you leave so they may not feel insecure and feel some separation anxiety. Kids are somehow sensitive towards the parent's facial expression and the gesture of voice so one great suggestion is to be really “cool” when it comes to your child.

Separation anxiety may tend to outgrow kids by the age of 3-5 years old. By that age around, they may be able to spend more time without their parents and will develop a sense of independence and high self-esteem. Helping your kid ease out from separation anxiety is a great way to prepare them for the coming future as they grow up and explore new things far and beyond this so-called life.

How to Help a Child with Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is one stage that every child will go through. It is a normal cycle that every young child is expected to experience. It is as normal as teething that it is also expected to be outgrown. But being normal as it is, every child has to suffer through symptoms that are not very pleasant.

Thus, as parents, we need to be aware of what triggers this kind of behavior. With this specific anxiety disorder, it is quite easy to identify. As specified in its name, separation anxiety, any form of separation from a parent or caregiver will immediately trigger some kind of attack, mostly exhibited through crying and fear. It is important therefore that we should be familiar with ways how to minimize its occurrences.

Separation anxiety in preschoolers: How to help a child with separation anxiety at school

One of the most common places or shall I say occasions that a child may have a separation anxiety attack is in school. It is especially true among pre-school age kids when going to school may be much too overwhelming for them. Aside from being a new environment apart from home, there are just so many people to relate with. Not to mention the various activities and schedules that the child has to comprehend.

To prepare them for this new adventure, we might want to introduce to them the idea of school. Perhaps you can show them videos and photos of a preschool setting. Tell them stories about people they know that go to the same school. Or if they have a sibling from that school we can also bring them to introduce them to the place for familiarization.

We can also practice them by taking them through the many activities that happen about going to school. An example would be wearing a uniform or I.D., opening their lunchboxes and water bottle.

One major cause of this kind of anxiety is the dropping-off part. Very young children may not be open at all to the idea of being left alone. We need to establish trust at this point because this may be the start of an unresolved issue. A good way to do this is when we drop him off make sure that we leave when he has already settled down and will no longer look for us. We have to ensure first that he is comfortably seated and well-adjusted to his new environment.

And if for some reason your child can’t seem to adjust even after a few weeks or even months, it might be a sign that he is not yet ready to be away from home. Don’t hesitate to withdraw him from school and instead use the money to enjoin him to participate in playgroups or other activities that do not require long hours of various activities. Choose something that will allow you to stay and be with him for the entire duration of the activity.

As a parent, we should be very careful in creating situations that will push our kids to feel anxious about anything. Our primary goal is to make them feel at ease and comfortable in introducing new stages in their life and schooling is one of these. Be prepared to pave their way through independence but be also open to the idea that he might not be ready to fly away from our wings.

Best Tips to Help a Child Cope with Separation Anxiety

When dealing with separation anxiety children need more attention and help than older people might notice. Separation anxiety is considered normal, it occurs when children feel anxious or worried as their parents or caregiver is away from them. The truth is, this problem will eventually vanish as the child gets older. She will be used to the situation and find out for herself that those who leave will come back.

But until then, dealing with your child crying out loud every time you leave the house without her or leaving her to the care of others for a moment can be a daunting task. Here are some great ways to teach your children to overcome separation anxiety:

Practice leaving your child to the care of others for a moment

Practice leaving your child to a sitter who might be a relative or just a nanny. Do this while she is still very young, perhaps while still a baby or a toddler. Just make sure you can trust the person you get as a sitter though and that he or she cares greatly for the child like you do.

Leaving your child for even a short period will help her develop being with someone else at times instead of you. It will not work out fine at first but later on your child will get used to it and she might not likely further develop separation anxiety. She would become comfortable in the care of others.

Don’t panic

The challenge is to keep yourself calm every time she reacts violently as you leave the house. When she sees you responding to her request with a panic too to calm her down right away then she is more likely to get worked up herself.

Establish goodbye habits

Giving them a kiss and some words of assurance and comfort or just asking them to watch over the house when you leave can help ease separation anxiety; children will also feel responsible and dependable when you do that. Make sure that when you say goodbye though that you leave the house right away. Do not repeat over and over again saying goodbye while still at the house.

Talk to your child

This works out best for four-year-old or older children. Before leaving the house, talk to your child about her plans. What she would be playing with and make sure you make her feel she is heard. Tell her how proud you are of her and how confident you are of trusting her all alone at the house with a sitter.

Express to her that as she let you out for a while, you are helping the family. Thus, making her feel involved in helping with some basic chores in the house. Not a bad idea in teaching children basic principles about helping the family around the house.

Bring home with you some goodies

Your child will most likely develop more confidence at home or away from your side if she gets some reward for her courage. It doesn’t have to be a lot. A bar of chocolate will already be fine. Continue to express to her how proud you are of her for staying at the house while you were away.

While you are going to wisely eradicate separation anxiety children will develop positive thoughts replacing the old negative ones. Their anxiety will be replaced with more productive values. They will come to know that every time you go away, it means that you trust them. The principles we talk about here are so simple yet will yield great results not only for now but also in the future.

Practical Solutions for Children with Separation Anxiety and Helping Them Become More Independent

The trouble you have to go through every time you leave your very young children can be overwhelming. We want to leave them to the care of babysitters sometimes just to let them develop a sense of independence. We don’t want to make them rely on our care every single moment, that wouldn’t produce a productive person in the home and the community. Practice applying basic skills in coping with separation anxiety and children will most likely grow into a more independent and reliable asset.

Let us discuss for a moment first what separation anxiety is all about. Separation anxiety happens when children get upset and feel very worried about getting separated or when separated from their parents. This can become a big problem when both parents need to go out to work or when the child is already old enough to go to school.

Leaving your child to the care of others at these times can be disastrous as your child will do everything she can to keep you by her side. Usually, your child’s actions will distract everyone around you. I suppose you know what I mean by that.

Experts say however that separation anxiety is very normal during your child’s early years. It reflects the child’s strive to be safe in a world that she thinks is a very dangerous place. And many times, this is due to the movies or the television programs she sees and some painful separation experiences.

Nevertheless, all children need to learn to cope with separation. Here are some things you can do about it to help your child be more independent as well as to give yourself peace of mind:
  • Set a pattern of staying away from your child for short moments as early as possible. Take a babysitter in your stead regularly. Babies need to feel they can become attached to not just one or two persons. This will help her develop confidence in the care of other people as well.
  • Do not try to escape or sneak out to get away from your child. This will only make her more upset. And her frustrations will grow every time you do that. Always say goodbye every time you leave the house or when you leave her to sitters.
  • Before leaving her to the care of someone else, tell her how good at taking care of children her sitter is. This will assure your child of her safety. This is the reason why there is separation anxiety; children fear the company of others because they simply don’t trust them.
  • When your child is old enough to understand, talk to her about your confidence in her. Make her feel you trust her enough and that leaving her at times can make her more dependable in the future.
  • Keep your promises. If you promised a present for her when you get back home then do it. If you promised on coming back home at a certain time, then it would be very wise to fulfill it. This will establish a relationship of trust between you and your child. And when you tell her next time she would be alright when you leave her to someone else or alone, she would believe it because of her trust and confidence in your words.
Developing these basic parental skills can greatly stop separation anxiety and children will become more independent. After all, one of our responsibilities is to raise our children to become more able to meet the demands of the real world when they grow up.

The earlier you train them to become independent, helping them overcome their anxieties, the better the chances are of helping them become more responsible citizens in our society. And it will all start with helping them cope with separation anxiety.

  Read also: Anxiety in Children


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