Child Separation anxiety is the normal response for very young children to being separated from their mothers or when approached by strangers. For many children ages 8 to 14 months is the average developmental stage in which they begin to distinguish between caregivers that they see every day and the faces that are strange to them. At this stage the child starts to learn that people and objects don’t disappear, such development is called ‘object permanence’. Young children usually express their feeling of anxiety by crying inconsolably. If the child has a new caretaker he/she can help to sooth the child’s anxiety by distracting or engaging the child with play.
The following are tips for handling young children who suffer from separation anxiety:
Allow the child to spend some time with a person that he/she is not familiar with when the parents are there
Gradually introduce new faces and places, for instance, you can take the chid on a visit to a new preschool
Create a ritual for whenever you are leaving home. You can do so by pleasantly but firmly saying goodbye to your child
When anxiety behavior has reached beyond two years of age in young children, it becomes rather troublesome. If your child exhibits more than one symptom of separation anxiety you should consult with a paediatrician in order to get a correct diagnosis. The anxiety of a child can be aggravated by stress. A child may be stressed due to environmental or situational change such as moving or divorce, death of a loved one or of a pet, or a parent that is over-protective. A parent who is over-protective may unconsciously pas on stress about being separated to a child that is emotionally sensitive.
Symptoms of separation anxiety that are most problematic include:
Constant worrying and anxiety over the loss of a family member
Being greatly concerned about being kidnapped or lost
Hesitancy or refusal about going to day care or school
Nightmares about losing a loved one
Repeated complaints of physical pain such as stomach ache or headache when anticipating or experiencing separation
As a parent you should respectfully listen to the fears of the child. Telling the child to ignore their fears or mocking them will not help the child to cope with their separation anxiety. Although separation anxiety may not seem of much concern to a parent the fear is quite real to the child and as such shouldn’t be cast aside as being a nuisance. Being a care giver you should talk with the child about the problem and help them to successfully cope through times when the parent is not there. The child should be encouraged to participate away from the parent in activities that interest them. You can praise the efforts of the child, like going to school or bed, or visiting friends in order to develop healthy relationships with other persons than the parent.
You may get assistance from a counsellor or therapist for both the child and the parent when separation anxiety gets really problematic. When it comes to coping with separation anxiety, talk therapy has proven to be very effective. Medication may sometimes be used but only as a last resort. However, if medication is necessary, then parental support must be absolute.