Separation Anxiety

1 What is Separation Anxiety?

The relation between a child and mother is precious. The only person that the children know and trust is their mother.

When children are left for babysitting or child care providers they cry and behave very clingy. This is normal for developing infants and toddlers. This stage generally begins at 8-9 months of age and fade away at 24 months.

The development of child’s nervous system is at it peaks and child starts understanding people and emotions. And that feeling of separation triggers negative emotions in children and they start crying.

2 Symptoms

Classic characteristic symptoms of separation anxiety include:

  • Fussing,
  • crying,
  • screaming,
  • tantrums.

During the day child will refuse to leave parent and at night child will wake up and cry for parent. The separation anxiety may develop and become separation anxiety disorder develops. According to Manual of Mental disorders published by American Psychiatric Association the separation anxiety disorder may even occur in preschool age and is diagnosed when the symptoms are excessive for the child’s developmental age.

Symptoms of separation anxiety disorder include: excessive distress about being away from parents, constant, worry of losing parents in an illness or a disaster, continuous worry that something bad will happen, refusing to be away from home because of fear of separation, repeated nightmares of separation, frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches.

3 Causes

Separation anxiety is a feeling of being upset caused by being left alone. Infants remember little and have little sense of time.

Sometimes separation anxiety can be triggered by some changes in child’s life such as:

  • A new child care situation,
  • New sibling,
  • New home,
  • family stress or tension.

4 Making a Diagnosis

To be diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder, one must exhibit at least 3 of the following symptoms:

  • Recurrent excessive distress when child anticipates separation from mother,  
  • persistent and excessive worry about losing major attachment figures or about possible harm to them,
  • persistent worry about an untoward event (getting lost, being kidnapped, having an accident),
  • persistent refusal to go out and leave the home,
  • persistent refusal sleeping away from home or mother,
  • repeated complaints of physical symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, headache, abdominal pain.

5 Treatment

Mild cases of anxiety disorder does not need any medical attention, but in more severe cases treatment is required. Goals of the treatment include: reducing anxiety in the child, developing a sense of security in child, educating the child about the need for separation. Some of the options in treatment include:

  • Psychotherapy- it is main treatment approach to anxiety disorder.  The focus of this therapy is to help child tolerate separation from parents. A therapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works to reshape the way child thinks. This therapy helps child to make decisions more accurately.
  • Pharmacotherapy- if child does not respond to any other therapy usage of drugs to cure separation anxiety is the only way to treat this condition. Anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications may be used to treat severe cases pf separation anxiety disorder.

6 Prevention

The best way to prevent separation anxiety is to never leave child alone. Sometimes some situations become difficult for parents and they have to leave child at a child care center.

Some things can be done to prevent separation anxiety:

  • giving the child his/her favorite toy,
  • making the child feel comfortable before leaving the child feeding,
  • providing appropriate rest,
  • always try to leave child at a place where child knows someone and has a positive response to the care provider.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Some home remedies can be used to ease child’s separation anxiety, which include:

  • Practice goodbyes-  leaving your child with a trusted childcare provider. This is important that child builds a good relationship with the care provider so that they don’t feel sad when they are left alone.
  • Time- when the child is hungry, tired, and restless never leave him/her alone. Always try to leave the child alone when he/she is fed and rested.
  • Something to look forward to- talk about something exciting that will happen in the absence of parents. Don’t prolong goodbye- child must be given gentle goodbye. Prolonging the time of goodbye may trigger emotional imbalances and will make child upset. Always never forget to mention “will be back soon”.
  • Leave a reminder- offer the child a comfortable blanket or a teddy to play with.
  • Keep tears in perspective- never think that child is going to cry all the time he/she is alone. These tears are to stop parents from leaving their children alone. One the child will engage in new activity these tears will be gone.

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary for your child in order to cope with separation anxiety

Although child will cry in the absence of parents engaging them into a new activity will help the situation.

Make the child feel comfortable. Never make child feel that he/she is going to be left alone.

Some things such as crying in front of children must be avoided. Once the child sees that parents are back he/she will become happy.

Coping from separation anxiety is not difficult.

Try to make the child busy in playing with toys, make child comfortable in all situations.

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