Separation anxiety is extremely common in younger children, though it can even occur in older children. It tends to develop under two years, but it can actually occur at many different stages in a child’s life. Separation anxiety can develop after a particularly stressful occurrence, such as divorce, a change in environment, or when the child is beginning to feel ill. It can also be a long-lasting disorder that isn’t necessarily caused by anything. Separation anxiety isn’t always a bad thing; in many instances it indicates a deep bond between the child and their caregiver.
Signs of Separation Anxiety
Signs of separation anxiety usually occur whenever a caregiver is departing or after a caregiver has left. They may display behaviors such as clinging to you when you try to leave, throwing tantrums, or displaying fear or restlessness when you are absent. They may also complain about feeling physically ill, particularly when anticipating separation.
Helping a Child With Separation Anxiety
There are several ways you can help ease your child’s transition to being apart if they have separation anxiety. Ensure that you always say goodbye. Never sneak off without going over your typical goodbye routine. Furthermore, develop a consistent goodbye system. Say the same phrase or perform the same action every time you leave. This will help your child build confidence that you will return and will know the exact moment of separation.
Communicate with your child. Let them know that you intend to return and inform them when you will be back. Build trust by coming back consistently when you say you will. Inform them of any upcoming changes to their routine.
Practicing being apart from each other can help your child adjust. Schedule play dates or send your child on visits to grandma. Leave them with a babysitter for an hour while you run errands. A child will adjust better to being away from you if they are in a familiar environment. This is why it is important to spend time with your child in an unfamiliar environment before you leave them there.
Many children have separation anxiety. It is important to take steps to prevent the situation from escalating. Refrain from excessive reassurance or not leaving after the ritual goodbye has been completed. All of these actions can help your children adjust to being away from you, even if they have separation anxiety.