Many children, aged three and younger, experience separation anxiety. The term refers to a state of fear and nervousness. This occurs when a child is separated from their caregivers or parents. This is common and usually goes away. According to a study, if separation anxiety impacts children above 6 for over four weeks, they might have developed an anxiety disorder. This is a severe form of separation anxiety. It is estimated by a WebMD research that at least 4% to 10% of children experience a separation anxiety disorder. This statistical analysis includes boys and girls.
Read on to learn more about separation anxiety in children and how positive parenting can help children with their stress.
What is Separation Anxiety?
A lot of early anxiety in children aged three and less is normal! As children grow up and learn to steer the world and people, they need to be assured that everything is safe. This is why they cling to their caregivers and cry. It is their way of expressing their fear and telling them that they want to be comforted. Considering how young they are, it makes absolute sense. They do not know how to protect themselves. Naturally, they look up to their parents or caregivers for comfort and protection. They need their caregivers to respond to their call of distress and tell them that everything is fine.
What are the Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Children?
The first symptom of separation anxiety disorder, also known as SAD, is a refusal to sleep alone. In older children in grades 2 or 3, they might have repeated nightmares about being separated from their families. When children with separation and anxiety disorder see their parents or caregivers leaving home to run errands, they throw tantrums.
Public tantrums and crying are also common signs of separation anxiety. Their fear includes the possibility that their caregiver might leave them even when they are at home. Children who are going through this phase also worry that their caregiver or parents might not return home. They excessively worry about getting lost and refuse to go to school.
Children with separation anxiety often complain about stomach and headaches. They are fearful of being left alone, which causes muscle tension and physical aches. However, there is no need to panic. Most of the children get through this phase just fine. The anxiety can peak at different times and subsidize at others, causing parents and caregivers to stay at home.
Parents can be obliged to remain in the room if their children are crying. The best way to handle such a situation is with the use of encouragement and balanced validation. As a parent, you will want to teach your children that it is okay and capable of handling the separation. You might want to tell them that you are there for them and that they are strong and courageous enough to take a brief separation.
How Positive Parenting Can Help Reduce Separation Anxiety
When you start noticing the symptoms of separation anxiety, you can take the following steps to ease the process:
You can start to practice separation by leaving your child with a caregiver or babysitter for shorter periods. Doing so will help your child cope with a brief break by getting used to them. As you continue the brief separation practice, make sure to keep encouraging your child by gradually increasing the separation periods’ intervals.
In the case of toddlers and babies, ensure to schedule the separation periods after having fed them and after they have had their naps. This is because babies and toddlers are prone to experience separation anxiety when they are sleepy or hungry.
The Importance of a Goodbye Ritual:
This step applies to children of three years or older. Rituals are a sure way to generate reassurance. Goodbye rituals do not necessarily have to be complicated. A simple wave through the window can also work. The trick is to keep things short and to-the-point so that you can leave without making it a big deal. Going without stalling or turning it into a big deal is more uncomplicated. Your child will know that you will return and that everything is fine.
A successful goodbye ritual includes a promise that you can make to your child that you will return at a particular time. This will also boost your child’s confidence that they are brave enough to handle a short separation from you. Nonetheless, it is crucial to follow through with your promise and return at the promised time.
Keep Surroundings Familiar:
If you are hiring a babysitter to watch after your child during the separation period, make sure to keep the surroundings familiar. This will keep your child at ease. You can do so by asking the babysitter to come to your house and look after the child. When your child has to move to new surroundings, you can encourage them to take their favorite toy or a familiar object with them.