Separation anxiety is a common condition among children that causes the extreme fear and anxiety about potential separation from home or a parent. While this condition is usually heightened in times of stress, separation anxiety can range in severity–from normal clinginess to powerful panic attacks. Separation anxiety can be overwhelming for the children who experience it and their parents/guardians. Due to its complex nature, separation anxiety has the ability to transform an active, friendly, and happy child into a child that displays high levels of fear, frustration, and social anxiety. As this can be very confusing and upsetting to parents, it’s important for them to remember that separation anxiety is a common phase that many young children go through and soon grow out of as they get used to the idea of being away from their family in small bouts of time. However, only in the most extreme cases does separation anxiety develop into separation anxiety disorder–mostly pronouncing itself in children who seem to have trouble engaging in school activities as well as their normal daily routine. Whether your child’s separation anxiety is mild or severe, there are a variety of methods for parents to use to help soothe it.
REDUCING SEPARATION ANXIETY
While helping your child overcome their separation anxiety, it’s important for parents to keep in mind that certain amounts of worry and anxiety among children are perfectly normal. It’s truly all about how you help your child cope with these emotions that is important. To help reduce your child’s anxiety, here are a few steps you can take:
- Address your personal anxiety: It’s no secret that parents deal with the emotional weight that comes with the constant assurance that their children feel safe and secure during big transitions–going to school, a new activity, a new babysitter, etc. In order to remedy your child’s separation anxiety, you must deal with your own anxiety first. Children are extremely perceptive and can pick up on their parent’s feelings and emotions. Therefore, if a parent anxious while saying goodbye to their child on the first day of school, their child will sense that and adopt that same mindset. While it can be difficult, do your best to keep yourself calm, cool, and collected.
- Practice separation scenarios with your child: Preparing your child for those moments of separation can be quite useful in helping them overcome their separation anxiety. Start small; try making a plan to stay with your child at a relative’s house for 10-20 minutes and then leave for that same amount of time. Once your child gets used to this timespan, try increasing it a bit more the next time around. Soon, your child will be just fine with you leaving for hours rather than minutes.
- Establish a goodbye routine: Whether it’s a fun handshake or a bear hug, come up with a goodbye routine you and your child can do to make the separation processes easier. While they are carefree in many ways, children like consistency throughout their day, which leads us to our last point.
- Create a consistent routine at home: Consistency is key when it comes to reducing your child’s separation anxiety. With a morning and evening routine that boasts healthy habits, the time they spend outside the home will be much easier for them.
Separation anxiety tends to be very stressful for both you and your child, but there are plenty of ways to address the situation. Goodbyes don’t always have to be a tearful experience, and with the implementation of these helpful tips, your child will be on their way to overcoming their separation anxiety.