Types of separation anxiety in children and its treatment

Separation anxiety in children of different ages, especially in preschool and elementary school, is one of the problems that affect parents. It should be noted that separation anxiety in a child is sometimes normal and sometimes abnormal.



The main cause of separation anxiety types in children and ways of treatment

Anxiety is a phenomenon that exists in all human beings. Mild anxiety is somewhat necessary and, if not present, can be problematic. Anxiety causes people to take care of themselves and others and try harder to avoid possible negative consequences.

Children also experience different types of anxiety during development, such as fear of certain subjects or places (darkness, loneliness, thieves, wounds, etc.), anxiety about encountering strangers or new places, Anxiety about hurting oneself or others, etc. One of the most common types of anxiety in children is the fear of being separated from the main caregiver (usually the mother).

This form of anxiety begins naturally at 8 months of age and continues until 3 years of age. The occurrence of this type of anxiety is associated with the formation of a phenomenon called attachment in infants and toddlers.

When children feel a personal presence as a mother or caregiver, these people become a source of comfort and security for them, and gradually a sense of emotion and dependence develops in children.

separation anxiety

What causes separation anxiety in children?

Why does separation anxiety occur in children?

When an emotional bond and attachment develops between the child and the parents, the child behaves in a way that reflects their desire to stay with the primary caregiver (the mother, father, or caregiver).

For example, when a 7 or 8-month-old baby feels distant from the mother, he becomes restless and cries. If he can walk on all fours, he will follow his mother. These behaviors, which are a sign of attachment to the mother, are naturally present and visible in children. This condition is called “separation anxiety” which is normal in children and indicates their health.

A 3-year-old child understands the temporary separation

Gradually, as children get older, their cognitive skills increase. By about age 3, children come to realize that just because someone or something is out of their sight does not mean they no longer exist. If at this age the mother tells the child that she is leaving for work but returns, the child can accept her words because she knows the mother will return to her. While at a younger age, the child does not have this cognitive skill, and if the mother is not by his side, he feels that he will not come back, so the child becomes restless when his mother or caregiver is not there.

In fact, it is based on achieving this type of cognition in the child that it is recommended that 3 years of age is a good age to send the child to kindergarten or other educational classes because at this age the child is less likely to be restless after separation from the mother and The caregiver will meet after this temporary separation. So it tolerates separation. This is a natural phenomenon of separation anxiety in children, which occurs in children from 6 months to 3 years old (in some texts and some cultures this age is also mentioned as 4 or 5 years old).

When is separation anxiety abnormal in children?

It is sometimes observed that a child who is over 3 years old still can not stand the distance of the mother. Some mothers complain that their children can not stand even a few minutes away from them. These behaviors are not normal in children and are expected to diminish over time.

A child who has experienced natural separation anxiety may develop it again at an older age. In this case, there is a possibility of some kind of pathological anxiety. The most important concern of this group of children is that they will not be able to see their mother and father when something else happens.

For example, a child may think that someone is kidnapping him or her, that he or she gets lost on the street, or that his or her caregiver has an accident, and that he or she may lose him or her forever. This type of anxiety can also be seen at the age of 7 or 8. Separation anxiety may persist from a young age to old age, which is also a disorder.

Symptoms of abnormal separation anxiety in children

Separation anxiety can be called abnormal in a child when it occurs at an older age and lasts for at least 6 months. This anxiety should also interfere with the functioning of the child or parents (for example, the mother or caregiver of the child may not be able to cope with their life due to their high dependence).


separation anxiety

Ways to relieve separation anxiety in children

The severity of separation anxiety in children

When the child is going to be away from his mother or caregiver for a long time, for example going to kindergarten or school, he shows more restless symptoms. In this case, more child behavioral symptoms (such as restlessness, crying, or clinging to the mother) or physical (eg, nausea, abdominal pain, or headache ).

These physical symptoms are seen in many children who are going to schools, such as complaining of heartburn or nausea.

Sometimes a child starts being aggressive and stubborn so that he does not go to school. The child may even make excuses that he does not like school. At the beginning of school, it is normal for the child to feel somewhat upset by the mother or caregiver, but this should not last more than a month. Sometimes this type of fear or worry is actually the fear of being in new environments and is not considered separation anxiety.

Practical solutions for parents to treat separation anxiety in children

The most important thing that parents should do to help their children overcome separation anxiety is to create a sense of security and emotional support in children. When any separation between the parents and the child is to take place, the child must be informed of this matter.

For example, if the mother goes out shopping and leaves the child alone with the father, she must explain to the child that she intends to go out and, most importantly, announce her return. When we announce a time to return to the child, we must return to the child in time. For example, we tell a child that we will return after lunch or at the end of the child’s program in the afternoon.

In fact, it is important to set a time limit for the child to understand and be sure when the mother will return. The time away from the child should be gradually increased so that the child can tolerate more separation from the parents.

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