As children age and begin spending more time away from the family, whether at daycare, school, or extracurricular activities, it is natural that they experience some level of anxiety. Nearly all children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years old experience separation anxiety to a degree- this is a healthy reaction to this unfamiliar stage of development.
If you, as a parent, provide understanding and helpful coping strategies, your child can learn how to handle these feelings of fear and grow a sense of confidence and independence. However, in some cases, a child may experience intense separation anxiety that doesn’t go away and begins to interfere with their normal activities. This may indicate your child is facing a greater challenge known as separation anxiety disorder.
Whether your child is experiencing natural separation anxiety or a deeper struggle with separation anxiety disorder, keeping reading for my tips on how to manage. (And begin to heal.)
Strategies to Overcome “Normal” Separation Anxiety
If your child is dealing with minor anxiety when you part ways, there are several coping strategies to implement that can help your child manage their fear of separation.
Leave your child with another family member or caregiver for short time periods from short distances. Choose a consistent primary caregiver who your child is familiar with and start by having them come to your house so your child is in a familiar environment.
Schedule these periods after naps or meals so your child isn’t hungry or tired and, therefore, less susceptible to anxiety. As your child grows more comfortable, gradually increase the time and distance of separation.
Create a Brief Goodbye Ritual
Consistent rituals can help reassure your child that all is well and normal. This can be as simple as a hand symbol of affection through the window or a goodbye hug and kiss. Keep this interaction brief so that you can leave without any fuss. By keeping things quick, you show your child it’s just not a big deal.
I know you may feel some level of separation anxiety yourself – you just love them so much! Try not to give in once you’ve set boundaries, and remember to follow through on promises so your child feels secure.
Establishing clear boundaries, creating consistent rituals, and following through on promises are essential to help your child develop the confidence and security they need to overcome anxiety.
When Separation Anxiety Becomes a More Serious Challenge
While a bit of separation anxiety is normal and even healthy, separation anxiety disorder is a serious emotional condition that prevents a child from functioning in normal activities.
Because normal separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder share similar symptoms, it may be challenging to figure out if this is a phase your child will overcome with time and understanding or if they are suffering from a deeper issue.
If your child is struggling with incredibly intense fears that are preventing them from developing in school, their relationships, and extra-curricular activities, he or she may be dealing with separation anxiety disorder. But don’t worry - this disorder is treatable. Your child can overcome this difficult time and feel safe and secure on their own.
Causes & Symptoms of S.A.D.
Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) typically becomes an issue because the child feels unsafe and insecure. Take a closer look at environmental factors that may be causing stress, such as recent changes in surroundings or events such as divorce or loss of a loved one.
SAD may even be caused by an insecure attachment bond or an overprotective parent. Finding the root cause of SAD can provide clues to help your child through their challenges. Children with SAD constantly feel afraid of separation from loved ones, even when with their parents. Symptoms of this mental health issue include:
Fear that something terrible, such as a parent getting sick or hurt, will happen to a loved one
Concern that an unexpected event, such as getting lost or kidnapped, will lead to permanent separation
Refusal to go to school or to sleep
Physical complaints such as a headache or upset stomach
Clinging to the parent or caregiver
Learn More > Help Your Child Overcome Trauma
Helping a Child Cope with Separation Anxiety Disorder
It can be painful to watch your child experience intense levels of anxiety, so you may feel that avoiding separation is the best course of action. Unfortunately, this will prevent your child from truly healing and can create long-term issues. Instead of avoiding separation whenever possible, take these steps to help your child feel safer and more secure:
Learn about Separation Anxiety Disorder
Anticipate & stay calm
Provide Positive Reinforcement
Schedule an Appointment with Jolisa Clare Holistic
You may be able to help your child manage normal levels of separation anxiety at home, but if your child begins displaying symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder, your family will best benefit from the help of a professional.
With my help, we can reach the root of your child’s anxiety and foster a sense of security and peace. While there likely isn’t a quick fix to your child’s troubles, with love, patience, and forgiveness, your family can move through this period of difficulty and come out on the other side stronger than ever.
Your child deserves peace and you deserve the comfort of knowing your child is healing. Schedule your consultation for Emotional Polarity Technique therapy today!
Learn About Separation Anxiety Disorder
In addition to working with a professional, invest time into researching this mental health condition. By studying how your child experiences this anxiety, you can more easily empathize with their challenges.
Discuss the Issue
When your child is dealing with this kind of anxiety, they may feel very isolated and like no one understands what they are experiencing. Being able to talk to you without fear of judgement can have a powerful healing effect. Encouraging your child to talk about their emotions can show them they are safe. With empathy, remind your child that they made it through the last separation and will be able to do so again.
Anticipate & Stay Calm
By mentally preparing for points that may trigger a reaction of anxiety, such as dropping your child off for school, you can stay calm and show the child there is nothing to fear. If the child separates more easily from one parent, have that parent drop the child off.
Attending school can be particularly overwhelming for children with separation anxiety disorder since it lasts a long time and there are many expectations set in place. All while being around other children who can, unfortunately, be brutal at times.
Try communicating with the school in advance and making the following adjustments:
Help a child return to school from being absent as quickly as possible
Ask if the school can be lenient about the child’s late arrival to allow for separation struggles in the morning
Find a safe place where your child can go to ease anxiety when feeling stressed
Allow your child to contact home for brief phone calls
Send sweet notes with lunch to reassure your child
Provide Positive Reinforcement
Even the smallest accomplishments, such as going to bed without a tantrum or receiving good feedback from school, are valid reasons to praise your child’s success.
What may seem like small steps of progress can actually be huge milestones for your child, and proper encouragement will only continue this positive trend.
Overcome Anxiety with Holistic Therapy
Whether your child is suffering from severe separation anxiety or you are struggling with anxiety in your own life, I can help you overcome these challenges and step into a life of acceptance, gratitude, and joy. No one deserves to walk through life controlled by stress, so take the steps to overcome your demons today.
Schedule a phone consultation today to discover if Emotional Polarity Technique is right for you and your family.