Help Your Child Overcome Separation Anxiety
Updated: Jan 5
Separation anxiety—the common and normal fear that children have of being away from their parents or caregivers—manifests in many different ways and varies widely from child to child. Some babies begin crying hysterically when their parents or caregivers are out of sight only for a short time, while other children experience extreme distress when leaving for a new setting, such as school.
Either way, separation anxiety is equally unsettling to deal with for both parent and child. Today, we explore deeper into the topic of separation anxiety, and how you can help your child overcome it!
Separation Anxiety 101 – Symptoms and Facts
· Separation anxiety is an entirely normal developmental stage and a beautiful sign of a meaningful attachment
· From 8 to 14 months, children recognize their parents as familiar and safe. When separated from their parents, they feel threatened and unsafe
· Consistent separation anxiety usually ends when the child is around 2 years old
· After 2 years old, separation anxiety may return in times of stress such as when in unfamiliar situations, most often when separated from their parents
· Each child may have different symptoms, but some common signs of separation anxiety are:
Ø Panic or temper tantrums at times of separation from parents or caregivers
Ø Refusing to go to sleep without the primary caregiver nearby
Ø Physical complaints such as stomach aches right before or during timing of separation
Ø Clinging onto parents or primary caregiver during separation
If you recognize these symptoms and are in distress over your child’s separation anxiety, don’t despair! There are several proven tips and tricks to help you and your child ease separation anxiety.
Tips to Survive Separation Anxiety
To overcome separation anxiety, children need to feel trust in their home, trust people other than their parent, and trust that their parents will return after leaving. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to make the process of overcoming separation anxiety easier!
· Practice. Leave your child with a caregiver for brief periods at first. As your child gets used to separation, gradually leave for a longer time.
· Develop “goodbye” rituals. Simple rituals can be reassuring. It could be a comforting goodbye kiss or an adorable wave through the window before leaving. Keep it short and sweet!
· Consistency. Make sure you are consistent with the rituals. Do the same ritual at the same time each day to build your child’s trust and independence.
· Be firm. Do not give in to your child’s antics or tantrums. Tell your child you are leaving and that you will return, practice your ritual, and then go. Don’t drag it out. Children can sense hesitance from their parents'/caregivers' tone of voice, facial expression or body language. Resolve to be consistent in your instructions to your child and your actions.
· Keep your promises. Return at the time that you promised. Don’t break your child’s trust!
· Familiarity. When your child has to go away from home, bring a familiar object such as your child’s favourite chou chou so that new places become familiar.
- Have a good night's rest. Studies have shown that kids who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behaviour, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Your child and yourself would be more prepared to face challenges, if both of you have high quality and ample sleep the night before. For more tips on how to get a good night's rest for your child, do check out this article.
- Make going to childcare fun for your child. Children tend to imitate their parents. As a parent, when you are getting ready to go to work, you can make it into a "game" for your child and encourage him/her to imitate you as both of you get ready for work/school.
Dealing with separation anxiety is never easy. If your child is about to transition into a childcare centre, check out our article on How to Prepare Your Child for Childcare (link: https://www.nurtureinfant.com/post/how-to-prepare-your-child-for-childcare-a-positive-and-experience). The tips and tricks that we shared today will also help ease this process!
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