Coping with separation anxiety
Separation anxiety can vary from child to child depending on your child’s temperament and how you respond to his anxiety. Left undealt with, in some circumstances separation anxiety can last right through to secondary school. In older children, however, separation anxiety is usually a symptom of a deeper and more complex problem that needs to be investigated properly.
While you are the best judge of your child’s temperament, most 12 month-old children have learnt the gentle art of manipulation - if you continually drop everything to respond every time your child’s cries, or often change your plans to accommodate your child’s separation anxiety, your child will learn that his behaviour is a great strategy to avoid separating from you.
Older children with separation anxiety:
Children with separation anxiety disorder are afraid of separating from their family because of concern that something bad will happen (to you or them) while you are separated. Consult your GP if:
- Your child is suffering from symptoms of panic (nausea, vomiting, or shortness of breath)
- Your child has a panic attack before you separate
- Your child has nightmares about separation
- Your child resists sleeping alone
- Your child is preoccupied by concerns of being kidnapped of getting lost, or being able to keep himself safe without a parent being present.
How can I cope with my child’s separation anxiety?
Dealing with a child who is experiencing separation anxiety is a complicated business. You may feel:
- Reassured that your child is strongly attached to you
- Frustrated that separating is so difficult
- Upset by your child’s obvious distress when you separate
- Overwhelmed by your child’s neediness
Time will usually ease your child’s separation anxiety – it is only with repeated experience that your child will come to understand that you always return after you leave. He will also develop some much needed coping skills and independence, and in the meantime you can be gratified that the bond between the two of you is so strong.
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