How To Handle Separation Anxiety
Remember, it’s only natural for your baby to feel anxious without you, so there’s no reason to feel guilty when you need to get on with other parts of your life. In fact, separation anxiety is usually a sign of how well you have bonded with them.
Instead, you can focus on helping your baby understand and deal with their feelings so they feel more secure. They’ll learn that if you leave them, they will be OK and you will come back. If your baby’s old enough, you can talk to them about what’s happening, where you’re going and when you’ll be with them again.
Tips To Help Your Kids With Separation Anxiety At School
With many kids heading back to in-person school for the first time in a year or more, back-to-school jitters may be off the charts.
After months at home, children leaving the nest may feel intense separation anxiety. Add to that new rules about masks and social distancing, not to mention fear of the virus itself, and you can expect a new normal of kids clinging to their parents when that first bell rings.
When Separation Anxiety Continues And Worsens
However, if you notice your childs anxiety starts affecting their daily life and academics, talk to their doctor. Things like stomach aches, vomiting, headaches, constant worry about losing you or a loved one to a disease or illness or a reluctance to sleep away from you may be a sign of a more serious emotional problem called separation anxiety disorder , Dr. Fox said. The main difference between the two is that with SAD their fears keep them from normal activities.
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How To Help A Child With Separation Anxiety
In preparing for your temporary separation, be present and consistent with your child. Know that when the primary caregiver is out of view or earshot, separation anxiety symptoms will subside. But in the meantime, here is how to help a toddler with separation anxiety and how to deal with separation anxiety in babies:
How Can I Help Support My Child
There is no reason to feel guilty when you need to leave your child for a short period of time. Focus instead on helping your child to learn how to manage their feelings without you an important part of helping them to become more independent.
Talk about what you will do together later
Part of what makes children anxious when you part is the fear that they might not see you again. Discussing plans for your return helps to ease this fear: After Im finished work, Ill come and pick you up and we can go to the playground and play on the swings together.
Practice short separations and work toward longer ones
Try leaving your child with a trusted friend or relative while you run a quick errand and see how that goes. This will allow your little one to slowly get used to what its like to be apart.
Leave a soft toy or blanket with your child to help ease separations
Does your child have a favourite comfort object? If not, it might be a good idea to introduce one. A special toy can help a child to self-soothe when they are feeling upset.
Comfort your child when they are afraid
When you and your child are together, listen to what they have to say. Make sure to always respond with understanding and compassion and take care not to trivialize their worries. Look for non-verbal cues as well, such as fussing or extra clinginess.
Introduce any new caregiver gradually
Make goodbyes quick and positive
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Dont Give In To The Temptation To Sneak Out
It will make her separation anxiety worse in the long run. When she bursts into tears, say calmly
I know you dont want me to leave, but I will be back right after lunch. I will wave goodbye from outside. Helen will take you to the window to wave.
Then leave. Resist the urge to run back and grab your crying child. It may take her weeks to start waving to you, but you should always wave to her. Hide your own distress to signal your confidence that your child can handle this separation by being matter of fact.
Helping A Child With Separation Anxiety Disorder
None of us like to see our children in distress, so it can be tempting to help your child avoid the things theyre afraid of. However, that will only reinforce your childs anxiety in the long term. Rather than trying to avoid separation whenever possible, you can better help your child combat separation anxiety disorder by taking steps to make them feel safer. Providing a sympathetic environment at home can make your child feel more comfortable. Even if your efforts dont completely solve the problem, your empathy can only make things better.
Educate yourself about separation anxiety disorder. If you learn about how your child experiences this disorder, you can more easily sympathize with their struggles.
Listen to and respect your childs feelings. For a child who might already feel isolated by their disorder, the experience of being listened to can have a powerful healing effect.
Talk about the issue. Its healthier for children to talk about their feelingsthey dont benefit from not thinking about it. Be empathetic, but also remind your childgentlythat they survived the last separation.
Anticipate separation difficulty. Be ready for transition points that can cause anxiety for your child, such as going to school or meeting with friends to play. If your child separates from one parent more easily than the other, have that parent handle the drop off.
Keep calm during separation. If your child sees that you can stay cool, they are more likely to be calm, too.
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Make Sure Everyone Is On The Same Page
Talk with your spouse about how to handle separation anxiety at bedtime and come up with a plan together. Make sure you stick to it. If even one parent wavers, your child may stay in this phase longer and struggle to get through it.
If your child spends the night with a grandparent or somewhere else without you, make sure every caregiver knows what to do and how to handle the situation. Your best bet is to avoid sleepovers during this phase, because being without you is already hard on your child.
However, if you already had plans, dont cancel them. Do everything you can to create consistency in the routine for your child.
Financial Support For Children With Separation Anxiety
To get these rebates, your child will need a mental health treatment plan from a GP , or a referral from a psychiatrist or paediatrician. It doesnt matter how old your child is.
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Additional Tips For Older Children
Although separation anxiety is more common in elementary-aged children, teens can experience it too. Here are some additional tips to help your adolescent child:
- Acknowledge their fears. Let them know youre there for them and that uneasy feelings are natural parts of adolescence.
- Praise them for doing something they are anxious about.
- Gently encourage, dont force, them to do things that make them anxious.
- Wait until your child is anxious before stepping in to help.
- Remind your child of times when they were initially afraid but still managed to do something.
Keep Goodbyes Brief And Upbeat
Drawn-out goodbyes can prolong distress, so keep goodbyes brief and positive. It may help to create a goodbye ritual, such as a special handshake, or providing the child with a special blanket or toy to comfort them.
It is OK to comfort a child who is experiencing separation anxiety, but do not linger. Give them full attention and affection, and then leave.
Providing comfort and reassurance during the day may help ease nighttime separations. However, often a little extra support is necessary at bedtime to help children feel secure before they fall asleep.
It may help to:
- stick to a bedtime routine
- ensure they have a security toy or blanket with them
- stay calm and relaxed while saying goodnight, as children can detect their caregivers moods
- avoid sneaking out after they fall asleep this can cause distress if they wake up again
- comfort the child if they wake up by rubbing or patting them until they calm down, then leave
- when possible, avoid taking them out of the bed and rocking them to sleep
age of 3 years and begins to fade as the child develops a greater understanding that their caregiver will return. However, some children can continue to experience separation anxiety for longer periods.
When separation anxiety persists into later childhood, it is known as childhood separation anxiety disorder . This is a mental health condition that causes a level of separation anxiety that is unusual for the childs stage of development.
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What Is Separation Anxiety Disorder
The main differences between normal separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder are the intensity of your childs fears, and whether these fears keep them from normal activities. Children with separation anxiety disorder may become agitated at just the thought of being away from mom or dad, and may complain of sickness to avoid playing with friends or attending school. When symptoms are extreme enough, these anxieties can add up to a disorder. But no matter how fretful your child becomes when parted from you, separation anxiety disorder is treatable. There are plenty of things you can do to make your child feel safer and ease the anxiety of separation.
Ways To Reduce Separation Anxiety In Children
Helping a child with a separation anxiety disorder is quite a difficult task but not impossible. It saddens the hearts of parents to see their babies or toddlers suffer this distress and some parents may often feel hopeless. Here are some tips on how to help a toddler with separation anxiety. However, please note that if it is severe you may need to seek professional help.
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Don’t Be Late For Pick Up
It’s easy to lose track of time when you have a few hours to yourself, whether you are running errands, working, or simply taking some time to relax. But make sure you or the person assigned to pick your child up is at dismissal on timeor even early. If you are late, it can cause your child even more anxiety and make dropping them off at preschool the next day that much harder.
Just when you think you finally have preschool separation anxiety under control, a school vacation or an illness or injury that shakes up a child’s routine can cause a setback. This is normal. If you have developed strategies to help soothe anxiety previously, it may be only a day or two until your child regains their school-day rhythm.
Create Expectations With Your Child And Add Surprises
As the parent, its important for you to display a matter-of-fact attitude about the separation, and reassure your child that you will return later in the day. It can also help if you send your child in with a favorite toy or a special item from home. But make sure not to bring it out at pick-up time. Instead, wait until mealtime or when your child is with the teacher before revealing your surprise.
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Etiology And Mechanisms Of Sad
Although there are no definitive answers regarding the cause of SAD, there are some hypotheses. The Anxiety and Mood Disorders Program at Yale has been at the forefront in publishing scientific studies that suggest the neuropeptide oxytocin may be impaired in children with SAD and other anxiety disorders. Lead author Eli R. Lebowitz, PhD, associate director of the Anxiety and Mood Disorders Program, reports that oxytocin is implicated in anxiety regulation and in modulating close interpersonal and attachment behavior, underscoring its potential for informing the interpersonal aspects of youth anxiety disordersleading to the hypothesis that oxytocinergic functioning plays a role in youth anxiety and its disorders and the resulting family accommodation.5,6
Changes in the amygdala may also play a role in SAD. Significant disruption in caregiving is associated with childhood separation anxiety symptoms as well as altered functional development of the amygdala, which is a neurobiological correlate of anxious behavior.7 One study found that a history of institutional care was associated with reduced differential amygdala responses in children to social-affective cues of trustworthiness.7 Individual differences in the degree of amygdala differential responding to these cues predicted the severity of separation anxiety symptoms over the course of a 2-year period.7
Avoid Taking Your Child With You Every Time You Leave Home Or Checking In On Them
If possible, try to avoid taking children with you every time you leave home, or letting them contact you frequently from daycare. This can cause them to perpetuate the belief that they need to be with you at all times. If you dont avoid doing these things, your child may believe that he or she doesnt have a place in the world without you.
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How To Help Your Child Overcome Separation Anxiety
Whats Inside this Article: An overview of separation anxiety disorder and the official diagnostic criteria in the DSM V. Plus, helpful resources to help ALL children who struggle with separating from a caregiver, regardless of diagnosis.
Feeling a bit anxious when separating from caregivers is a normal part of childhood development and generally nothing to worry about.
Most kids are overcoming this worry by the time they enter kindergarten. By then, theyre separating from their parents regularly and learning that its safe and their parents will soon return.
Unfortunately for some kids, these anxious feelings just continue to intensify. Were going to talk about how to help these children overcome those fears.
When To Talk To Your Pediatrician
Talk to your pediatrician if intense separation anxiety lingers into preschool, elementary school, or beyond and interferes with everyday life.
This could signal a rare, serious condition known as separation anxiety disorder. Kids with this disorder are fearful of change and being cut off from their family. Signs can include:
- excessive worry about being lost or kidnapped
- nightmares about separation
- fear of sleeping alone
- panic symptoms or panic attacks before a parent leaves
A mental health specialist can diagnose and treat separation anxiety disorder. Treatment can address physical symptoms and equip your child with coping strategies and problem-solving skills.
For most children, separation anxiety will pass. Even so, a specialist can also help your family implement a more reliable bedtime or daycare drop-off routine.
The first thing to do is reach out to your pediatrician, Dr. Espinosa-Louissaint says. They will help you determine if your child needs further evaluation, and if so, with whom.
Many Boston Childrens Primary Care Alliance practices offer support for mental and behavioral health. Find a practice near you.
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Compare Bedtime To Leaving During The Day
It can be difficult for even the strongest parents to watch their child cry when they leave. The best thing you can do for yourself is put things in perspective. Compare bedtime to leaving your child during the day.
If you were to drop your child off with a babysitter and they began to cry, you wouldnt take the next three days off of work to console them and hope it solved the problem. You also wouldnt cancel date night if your child started to cry when you left them with a grandparent.
You have to continue with your plans and help your child through it lovingly. You know they will be safe and well cared for wherever they are. Make sure you trust your babysitters to reduce your anxiety and help them through it even easier.
The same applies at night. You cant drop everything and sleep with them just because they struggle through a few weeks. You need to be consistent with the things youve already taught your child because you know they are capable of sleeping all night alone.
The Right Way To Take Care Of Childs Separation Nervousness
In case your child is experiencing separation anxiousness, take consolation in figuring out that its going to ultimately fade. As infants and toddlers mature and develop, they turn into safer with their attachments and might take care of goodbyes extra successfully. However, that doesnt precisely show you how to whilst youre within the midst of it. So, what precisely are you able to do proper now? Listed below are some methods for lowering anxiousness when its time to say goodbye.
Create a routine
Think about your morning alarm goes off at totally different occasions every single day, and your day-to-day life is totally unpredictable. Chances are high youd really feel a bit cranky and unsettled. The identical is true of your child. Routine is important for adults and infants alike, particularly in relation to separation anxiousness. A daily each day routine to your child will present stability and can assist scale back stress of the unknown.
Equally, making a routine for if you say goodbye can provide your child a way of consistency. Whether or not you give them a kiss, sing their favourite music, or introduce a transitional object similar to a toy or blanket, making a goodbye ritual is an efficient manner to your child to create recognizable patterns within the goodbye course of.
Regularly introduce new locations and new individuals
Eradicate distraction methods or sneaking out
Take heed to your personal temperament
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