It’s normal for children to sometimes feel worried or upset when separating from their main attachment figures. Although it can be difficult for parents and the child, it’s a normal stage of development.
Kids will often cry, whine, refuse to part or be overly clingy when it’s time to separate. Usually, these behaviors decrease with age, but sometimes, some kid’s reactions are extreme, and they interfere with their functioning in different areas of their lives. These kids may be suffering from Separation Anxiety Disorder. Kids who suffer from Separation Anxiety Disorder have a persistent fear of possible harm occurring to close attachment figures or excessive fear that they will leave and not return.
Some common behaviors related to separation anxiety include:
- School refusal
- Frequent somatic complaints (headaches, stomach aches, nausea)
- Recurrent nightmares
- Crying or having temper tantrums
- Avoiding going to new places
- Refusal to be alone
A common place where these behaviors occur is at school. For some kids, they might refuse to go to school, or they might have a hard time when being dropped off. No matter what type of anxiety the child is dealing with, it’s important to educate and teach your child about anxiety.
If your child is having anxiety about separating from you, here are some recommendations to consider:
- Do not allow your child to stay home from school. This only worsens the symptoms over time and doesn’t allow them the opportunity to face their fear.
- Do not ignore or deny the child’s worries. Teach your child about anxiety and its impacts.
- Keep calm during separations. If your child sees you staying calm and cool, they are more likely to do so as well. When it’s time to say goodbye, make sure not to sneak out. This will only make the child more afraid.
- Once your child makes it to school, identify a safe place for them if they are having a hard time. You can work with teachers or school counselors in identifying what would be appropriate.
- Allow your child to pack a comfort item from school (favorite blanket or animal or a picture) that they can use when they feel homesick.
- Create a goodbye ritual- maybe a special handshake or goodbye which can help the child feel more secure during the transition.
- Praise your child’s efforts. Reward brave behaviors, however small they are!
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!