Easing Separation Anxiety In Children

Many children experience separation anxiety, especially those age three and younger. This is common and usually goes away.

Older children who have problems when they are separated from their parents or care takers could have a more severe form of separation anxiety.

Treatment can usually be done at home, but professional treatment may be required for more severe cases.

Recognizing Separation Anxiety…

It is usually easy for parents or care givers to recognize the symptoms of separation anxiety in children. Unlike the anxiety younger children feel, parents may find they cannot calm a child or it takes far longer than usual to calm a child when they leave them at daycare, school, camp or a friend’s house.

Children may seem to have gotten over their anxiety after age three and function normally without their parent or guardian near by. Most children diagnosed with the disorder do not begin showing symptoms until between ages seven and nine. Only 4% of children are affected. If a child only seems to have symptoms over a specific situation, the issue could just a specific social phobia or a problem with a specific person or group of people.

Some of the most common symptoms of separation anxiety include:

  • Excessive worrying about their parents or guardians.
  • Extreme homesickness.
  • Feeling miserable when parents are not around.
  • Crying when left by parents.
  • Tantrums.
  • Clinging to parents.
  • Nightmares.
  • Physical issues such as nausea or headaches.

Children with this form of anxiety do not want to be left alone. They feel afraid when their parents or guardians are not with them.

They often ask a parent to stay with them while they fall asleep. Their anxiety may also stem from feeling as if something bad is happening to their loved ones while they are apart.

Sad Child

Handling The Anxiety…

Children over the age of three that exhibit symptoms regularly must be taught how to manage their stress and fear. The anxiety may disappear over time as the child realizes that they and their parents are safe while apart. It is important for parents to take steps to treat the anxiety as it can lead to other anxiety issues such as agoraphobia and panic disorder.

Children can miss out on a variety of experiences if they do not get help with the anxiety. It can affect how they perform in school. It may prevent them spending time with friends or other family members. They may refuse to go to classes outside of school such as dance or karate.

Home treatment can be effective. Parents or guardians may seek professional counseling to learn more about separation anxiety and how to teach children to feel safe without them nearby. Some children may also need cognitive-behavioral therapy to learn to control their fear. Medication is usually only used in severe cases or cases that do respond to therapy and counseling.

Parents must remain supportive throughout the treatment. Children may feel more anxious if they feel their parents or guardians are afraid or anxious. Taking action early is vital to helping children feel comfortable being away from their parents or guardians.

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