It is normal for toddlers to be anxious when being separated from their parents. But some of them are so reliant on their parents over time that they regularly feel severe panic attacks and uneasiness when separated from them even for a short period. If your child is one of them, he could be suffering from separation anxiety disorder (SAD).
Being deeply anxious about losing parents or caregivers is common for toddlers aged 8 to 14 months. Some kids continue to display the actions that show anxiety as they go older. SAD is common in children aged six years old and above who have experienced a traumatic event. If your child displays the behaviors below excessively for at least a month, he or she might have SAD.
- Repeated feelings of the following to people they are emotionally attached to:
- Extreme distress when being separated
- Excessive worrying about losing, or possible harm or accident happening
- Persistent unwillingness or refusal to go to school or other places due to the fear of separation
- Recurring and persistent fear or reluctance of being alone without parents or caregivers at home or without adults in other places
- Stubborn hesitation or refusal to fall asleep without being close to a parent or caregiver or to sleep outside home
- Repeated nightmares with the theme of separation
- Recurring complaints of headaches, stomachaches, nausea, vomiting, or other symptoms of anxiety when expecting a separation from parents or caregivers.
While we mostly attribute SAD to sensitive children, this disorder can extend until adulthood especially if not attended to by parents at an early age.
Ways to soothe SAD
As a parent, you can train your child to adapt to your goodbyes by doing these steps:
Practice separation gradually. Say good-bye to your kids can be stressful to them. They can develop this disorder when they are not adequately trained to be separated to parents or caregivers. You need to teach them gradually to stay with their caregivers for short distances and brief moments until they get used to it.
Include naps or feedings in separation practice. Tired or hungry kids are the most prone to have separation anxiety. Hence, you need to delegate slowly the chores of feeding your children and putting them to sleep.
Watch less horror or scary flicks. Your child is sensitive to your emotions. The more he or she sees fear in you, the more he or she will be anxious.
Create a farewell ritual. Parting rituals act as routine activities that make them feel secure that you will return. A simple wave or goodbye kiss are enough to reassure them.
More Tips for Managing Childhood Separation Anxiety
Leave without much fuss. Bid your child farewell and go away. This action will train your child to expect less from your departure.
Maintain familiar surroundings or bring objects he or she ordinarily uses to a new environment. Sensitive babies have a hard time adapting to the changes in their environment. Hire a babysitter that comes to your house. Let him or her bring toys, pillows, or other familiar things when you go outside home.
Keep a long-term affectionate caregiver. If you have found an able one, try to retain him or her.
Make his or her bedroom extra cozy. Sleeping could be hard for children with this kind of anxiety. Propping their bedroom with sleeping aids and playing soothing music can ease their stress and tension.
When symptoms persist, never give in. Your child needs your presence and guidance when he or she suffers from separation anxiety disorder. Aside from seeking professional help, your loving presence is your child’s solace during this trying times.
Ethan Wright is a health enthusiast who believes every great day begins with a good night sleep. He is currently a researcher and writer for Bedding Stock, an online retailer of twin memory foam mattresses in the USA. When not wearing his writing hat, you will see him traveling to places with his journal.