Separation anxiety in children can be as stressful for the parent as it is to the child. If your child is experiencing it, you may be interested in learning more about the causes and how to effectively deal with the problem.
Although it can occur at any age, the younger a child is the more prone he will be to experiencing separation anxiety. In some cases it is the child’s own personality causing him to be more clingy to his parent, and less open to interacting with others. This can lead to the fear that his parent may not return after leaving. In other cases, it is a matter of the child being placed in the care of others, often outside the home, before he is ready for this all-important step.
In the first instance, the more exposure the child has to others, the easier it will be to reduce separation anxiety. At its best, you can begin by bringing other people into your child’s “world” at home. This can include trustworthy adults with whom you associate, such as older relatives, neighbors, and people in your community. When your child begins seeing these people on a regular basis, he will start to feel more comfortable around others.
Whether your youngster has brothers or sisters at home or not, exposing him to his own peer group is beneficial. For the child who has separation anxiety, it is best to start by inviting other children in his age group to your home. When he has the chance to interact with other children in unstructured play while you are present, he will be more comfortable with socializing. After he has become accustomed to playing with other children, you can take them to the park or other recreational area.
Preparing the child who has separation anxiety to be cared for by others does not need to be an extremely stressful experience for either him or yourself. If you are planning to use the services of a babysitter, your child should have plenty of time to get to know the person in advance. This will also give you the chance to observe how the caregiver interacts with your child. A child should not be left with a babysitter whom he does not like or trust.
Starting school can be a difficult time for a child who has separation anxiety. You should give your child the opportunity to visit his new school a number of times prior to his first day of school. In addition to getting to know his teacher and other staff members, a few “tours” around the school will help him to see that it is a place where he can feel comfortable. If he can meet and get to know some of his classmates in advance, this is also very helpful.
While these are basic aspects of growing up which can be affected by separation anxiety, and dealt with in a calm, consistent manner, placing a youngster in someone else’s care before he is ready is not generally in this category. Although the usefulness and benefits of preschool are widely debatable, daycare settings for children who are too young for preschool are rarely in anyone’s best interest unless it is unavoidable. In other words, your infant or toddler is not experiencing separation anxiety, only his natural, instinctive need to be with his parent.