Coping With Separation Anxiety
As a parent, you aim to influence healthy social development and growth in your young child. While it is a normal stage of development for your child to feel anxious when separated from loved ones, excessive or enduring anxiety issues induced by normal periods of separation could be a sign of a deeper emotional problem. Separation anxiety disorder is a condition in which a child becomes fearful and nervous when separated from a caregiver, loved one or home. This disorder can be derived from a variety of different causes, ranging from changes in environment, to traumatic events or losses and even through genetic inheritance.
- In the U.S., separation anxiety disorder effects 4.1 percent of children aged 7-11 years old.
- The lifetime prevalence for those who experience the disorder between the ages of 13-18 is 25.1 percent.
- The disorder effects boys and girls equally; however, girls have a higher chance of lifetime prevalence than boys.
It is often difficult as a parent to determine the depth of your child’s separation anxiety, as normal separation anxiety and full separation anxiety disorder share many of the same symptoms. Though coping can be difficult, it is important for you to fully understand your child’s separation anxiety and take the right steps to help them with the issue.
Start with absences that are short in both duration and distance, and gradually work with your child to increase the length and distance of your visits. This gradual increase will allow for your child to build his or her confidence with each absence and over time can dilute anxiety due to long or far away absences.
Even a simple wave before backing out of the driveway or leaving a small note for your child to hang on to until you return can make a big difference in your child’s anxiety levels. Rituals are reassuring and can help your child realize that your absence and eventual return is part of a daily routine.
By simply taking a moment to listen to your child, you can have powerful therapeutic effects on his or her anxiety. It is beneficial to have children talk about their feelings instead of trying to avoid the issue.
A parent who does not set a good example in anxious situations can often amplify a child’s separation anxiety. An in-control and calm demeanor will positively enforce your child’s behavior and work to maintain a calm demeanor.
It is important for you to know the facts about separation anxiety, its causes and preventative measures in order to amplify your child’s self-confidence during times of separation. To learn more, visit the Help Guide Separation Anxiety Page.