How to deal with separation anxiety of your Child?
Separation Anxiety usually occurs, when a child has an irrational fear upon separation from their parents or caretaker. Separation anxiety is considered a normal stage in an infant’s development because they are not accustomed to meeting new people or visiting new places. The child identifies parents or caretakers as safe and any form of separation causes them to feel fear and an invisible threat.
However, Separation anxiety must end by the age of 2. If it extends your child may not want to try being independent and will be excessively attached to you. They will lack an understanding of time, the fact that through their parents or caretakers are gone for a while they will surely return later.
To an extent, it is normal for your child to feel anxious after being separated from you. Although if this anxiety interferes with their ability to carry out daily activities, like going to school, playing with others in the absence of parents, it means they are facing severe Separation Anxiety.
Here are a few common causes of Separation Anxiety among children:
Sudden changes in their physical surroundings: Leaving them at a daycare center, moving to a new house or going to school, can trigger separation anxiety.
An overprotective or anxious parent: Children tend to observe and pick up behaviors from their parents. If a parent looks anxious the child will observe it and this would feed their separation anxiety.
Loss: Any kind of loss like a divorce or losing a pet/loved one can contribute to your child’s separation anxiety.
Biological factors: When the two hormones serotonin and dopamine are unbalanced it usually leads to anxiety.
SOME COMMON SYMPTOMS OF SEPARATION ANXIETY:
– Extreme discomfort when separated from parents or caretakers.
– Unwillingness to go to school or other new places because they dread separation
– Unwillingness to sleep without their parent or caretaker
– Nightmares related to separation
– Complaints about nausea, headaches or dizziness after any kind of separation has taken place.
– Fear/worry that they might lose their caretaker or worry that their caretaker may not return.
HOW A PARENT CAN DEAL WITH SEPARATION ANXIETY?
There are a few strategies which parents can practice curbing such anxiety or fear in the minds of their child:
• Stay calm during separation: If you look calm during separation from your child, they will imitate that behavior. If you look disturbed, your child will start perceiving every new situation or change as a threat.
• Practice staying separate: Try to leave your child with his/her grandparents. Ask your friends or family to take care of your child in your absence. In this way, your child would start getting familiar with other adults and would not feel unsafe in your absence.
• Set up a routine: Routines are predictable and having a routine will make your child feel safe and calm. Have a fixed mealtime and bedtime.
• Listen to your child: Let them express their discomfort and vent out the unpleasant feelings, they get after separation. Your child will feel that they are being cared for and listened to which will help them heal. Suppressing anxiety will make them feel angry and frustrated.
• Limit avoiding activities: You would want to avoid activities that cause anxiety to your child, however, avoidance will only create more problems for your child in the future. For instance, your child feels distressed, when left in a daycare center, avoiding daycare centers that might appease them in the present.
However, in the future, this might translate to them, wanting to avoid any new situation or any kind of separation from you. They will be unwilling to go to school or to the park alone to play with others.
• Encourage your child, when they engage in new activities: This will help your child feel positive about trying new activities on their own, not anxious. Compliment them when they play with others or go to bed without complaining.
If the separation anxiety intensifies and the child has physical symptoms like nausea, heart palpitations or dizziness, it is best to consult a therapist or a psychologist who specializes in children and adolescents.
For immediate help, you can call the National Parent Helpline (U.S) at 1-855-427-2736