Have you noticed that your child is especially attached to you or becomes worried and uneasy when away from you or when you say goodbye? Why are goodbyes with your child so much more emotional than you imagined? It’s possible that your child is experiencing separation anxiety.
About 4 to 5 percent of children between ages 7 and 11 are affected by separation anxiety, although it normally starts at a much younger age and progresses with time if not dealt with properly.
Separation anxiety most commonly occurs in children who have experienced a stressful or traumatic event early in life. But, there are plenty of other factors that could cause such anxiety. A child with separation anxiety may fear being alone, have recurring nightmares, wet the bed or get headaches or stomachaches from the worry. It may also affect the child’s school day — if he or she is worried about being away from the parent, he or she cannot focus on schoolwork or interacting with classmates and friends.
As a parent, it is important to recognize when your child is experiencing these or similar symptoms that hinder daily life in your family. If this is the case, it is a good idea to consult with your pediatrician or a child development specialist. These professionals can offer a variety of separation anxiety resources or even provide medication if necessary. There are plenty of options to help tackle anxiety in your child, such as:
- Maintain a healthy environment at home. It is helpful for the child to know a “goodbye ritual” or to experience practiced separations at home.
- Talk to your child. Be empathic and patient, and let the child know you care and are not judging.
- Therapy/counseling. Family and school-based therapy can help children cope with different stress environments.
Remember, separation anxiety is a serious emotional issue that causes extreme distress. Take action as soon as you can, and you and your child will be well on your way to a happy, anxiety-free life.