Separation Anxiety in Children
Have you noticed kids feeling worried or upset when going to the school or daycare? They will act clingier, start crying, agitated or total refusal to be separated. Especially the first couple of years, infant became anxious while seeing strangers or in an environment alien to them. Most of the children get rid of this as they grow up, gain more confidence and comfort with their friends and teachers at school or in general. But for some children, this anxiety for being separated is far more intense and continues far beyond 1-2 years of schooling. For these kids just the anticipation of being separated causes severe anxiousness, this might be because the child is suffering from separation anxiety.
When to Seek help from an Expert
Separation anxiety disorder is found in less than five percentage of the children. This is mainly due to genetic, such as history in the family, and environmental factors. Mainly separation anxiety disorder is found in children before their adolescence and both the genders are equally affected. It is expected that until the age of 5-6, children tend to be anxious and it’s part of their progress. But the children with separation anxiety are worried far more than rest of the children.
Children may protest against leaving parents, refuse to play with other children or even complaining being sick (vomiting is an example) at the time of going to school or being separated for a while. It has been noticed that children with anxiety are having different attitudes towards the separation from each parent. These children are known to have physical illness every now and then and a proper consultation is necessary. With Children with separation anxiety, we may experience any combination of the below symptoms
Extreme fear of separating with the parents/family members.
The worry of something bad will happen to the parents or other family members.
The worry of getting lost if separated from the parents. Unwillingness to engage in academic or even after school activities.
Extreme fear of sleeping alone and scary dreams about being lonely after separation.
Feeling sick at times, vomiting, stomach aches, headaches, uneasiness while leaving their parents.
Reluctance in going to the school, morning tantrums, insisting on staying at home.
Very low self-confidence and below par concentration level at school.
Phobias, panic disorder or depression.
If these are left unnoticed it will affect the kids relationship with the friends, academic performance, school activities eventually the relationship with other family members will also deteriorate. Even there are cases where the child took the matters into their own hands, thinking there is no other way out, taking very hard steps.
Helping the Child facing Separation Anxiety
We have to provide a sympathetic approach towards the child and adapt to according to his needs to help him out. Parents need to understand the child’s feelings, listen to them and this will have a definite impact on the child. Just listening to him without giving any instructions or advice will help him to revive his confidence level. Do not shout at the child, keep your calm while dealing with the child, you don’t want them to start panicking. Appreciate the small steps that the child is achieving, even it is surviving separation for 30 minutes, this will reduce the anxiety and he will slowly get his confidence back. Planning school activities or parties at the kid’s friend’s places or at parks, with an option to get in touch with the parent, will also work. Be firm when you are setting the limits, but be caring and consistent.
Relaxation techniques such meditation, breathing exercises or yoga classes are known to help the child to build the concentration level. Support him and make him participate in the school activities. We need to ask help from the school authorities as well. Teachers might need to put extra efforts with these kids this includes rewarding his achievements and encouraging the child to lead class activities. Foremost of all, they have to be aware that if the child is not willing to do some activity it is not intentional but because of his anxiety.