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Tips and Tricks to Manage your Child’s Separation Anxiety

Updated: Dec 14, 2023




Separation anxiety in small children is a common and natural part of their development. Through the various stages of childhood, separation anxiety can manifest especially during the toddler and preschool years. Separation anxiety can occur in a variety of situations, including the beginning of a school year and after the holidays.


In this article, we will explore the causes and symptoms of separation anxiety in small children, offer some tips and tricks for parents and caregivers, and discuss how separation anxiety can be particularly relevant during the start of the school year and holiday period.

Understanding Separation Anxiety in Small Children.


 

Separation anxiety in small children typically begins around 8 to 14 months of age and can persist up to the age of 3 or 4, although it may vary from child to child. It occurs due to the child’s growing awareness of their attachment figures, usually their parents or primary caregivers, and a fear of being separated from them.


It is important to recognize that separation anxiety is a normal part of a child’s emotional development. It reflects the healthy attachment a child has formed with their caregivers and a growing sense of individuality.


Common symptoms of separation anxiety.

Children experiencing separation anxiety may exhibit a range of emotional and behavioral symptoms, such as:

  1. Clinginess: They may become more clingy and see physical closeness with their caregiver.

  2. Crying and Tantrums: Separation anxiety can lead to crying, whining, and tantrums when the caregiver attempts to leave.

  3. Refusal to leave home: Some children may refuse to leave their home, especially if they fear separation from their familiar environment.

  4. Fear of strangers: They may become wary of unfamiliar people and resist being left with other caregivers or in daycare.

  5. Nighttime separation anxiety: It can also manifest as bedtime resistance, with the child unwilling to sleep alone.


Tips and Tricks for managing Separation Anxiety

  1. Gradual separation: Start with short separations and gradually increase the time apart from your child. This can help them become accustomed to being apart from you. In school, this gradual separation is usually referred to as ‘adaptation period’.

  2. Create a Routine: Establishing a consistent daily routine can provide a sense of security for your child, as they know what to expect.

  3. Positive Goodbyes: When saying goodbye, be brief but reassuring. Reassure your child that you will return.

  4. Transitional Object: Some children find comfort in a favorite toy or blanket. Allowing them to bring this item can provide a source of security.

  5. Introduce caregivers: If someone else cares for your child, introduce them gradually and involve your child in the process.

  6. Empathetic communication: Encourage your child to express feelings and fears. Validate their emotions and offer comfort.


Separation Anxiety at the beginning of the school year and holidays

The start of the school year can be a particularly challenging time for children dealing with separation anxiety. It involves leaving the comfort of home and familiar caregivers to venture into a new environment to ease this transition:

  1. Preparation: Talk to your child about what to expect at school. Visit the school beforehand, if possible, to help familiarize them with the environment.

  2. Establish a routine: set a consistent morning routine to make the transition smoother. This routine can include a special goodbye ritual.

  3. Positive reinforcement: Encourage your child to focus on the exciting aspects of school, such as new friends, fun activities, and learning experiences.

Separation anxiety is a normal part of a child’s development and understanding its causes and symptoms is crucial for parents and caregivers.

By using the tips and tricks mentioned above, you can help your child navigate separation anxiety more smoothly, whether it's at the beginning of the school year or after the holidays. Patience, empathy, and a supportive environment are crucial for children to outgrow separation anxiety as they become more confident and independent.

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