Top 5 Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Children
A foster mother once told me about the moment she tried to leave the baby she was taking care of at the church nursery, and the child reached out and clung to her for the first time. Despite spending weeks with her, he had never expressed a predilection for her until that particular day.
He was not the cause of her excitement. She understood what it meant when he began to see her as his “person” and began to feel secure around her. She was aware that letting him stay would also demonstrate to him that it was safe for him to be in the nursery and would give them both an opportunity to put her word that she would always return into effect.
Depending on the cause, child separation anxiety can be problematic.
It can be endearing if all it represents is a close bond with their caregiver. However, parents must make a decision regarding what to do if the reason is more significant.
How to Handle the Top 5 Signs of Child Separation Anxiety
Here are five indicators that your child is experiencing separation anxiety, along with suggestions for how to support them.
1. When you leave the room, your baby cries.
Age-related milestones can occasionally cause separation anxiety in children. For instance, while their caregiver is not in the room, a baby between the ages of four and eight months may begin to exhibit signs of worry. When a loved one departs, they might begin to cry or exhibit indications of sadness.
This is because kids are still learning how to identify familiar faces and items and how to develop sentiments for them. They still do not understand that something may be present, even though they are unable to see it.
This is a great opportunity to demonstrate to your child that you will always show up. Enjoy this period in your child’s life by playing peek-a-boo with them.
Older kids understand that their caregiver will always come back. They come to understand that the locations and people their caregiver trusts are safe for them as their trust is built up.
2. They become anxious when they encounter new surroundings and people.
A child may experience anxiety when it’s time to travel to new areas. When attending a new event, kids could be reluctant to leave the house, congregate in a corner, or act out in tantrums or meltdowns.
One of the most frequent sources of anxiety is the unknown. Preparing your child as much as you can help you combat this.
Tell them what to anticipate. This can involve displaying to them images of the location they are visiting and the locals, outlining activities and expectations for behavior while there, and, if feasible, providing a preview of the location without the need for separation.
Considerably, this is the purpose of orientations in schools. It could be helpful if we applied the same strategy to unfamiliar locations that our children might visit on their own.
The secret is to plan. It’s also crucial to understand what to anticipate from new acquaintances. Prior discussions on appropriate behavior for them and those around them can help them feel more empowered and ultimately keep them safe while you are not around.
Be truthful. They may feel less anxious if you explain to them why you are leaving them in a strange environment or with strangers: why you believe in them, why you believe in the people who will be taking care of them, and what to do if something goes wrong.
3. The Battle of Bedtime
Children often have a very tough time going to bed. Even adults experience tension before bed.
Dreams are mysterious and even frightening. When the house is silent and dark, it feels like another world entirely.
The idea of spending the night alone can make one anxious. Tears and irate behavior may be indications that your child is having trouble falling asleep, resisting bedtime, or experiencing this.
There are actions you can take to assist:
- a quiet, calming bedroom environment;
- A calming, relaxing nighttime routine
Lots of encouraging conversations during the day; melatonin as a sleep aid; bedtime companions like plush animals and special blankets, some of which may even be weighted and warmed; and a gradual shift from having their parent sleep next to them to sleeping alone.
Anxiety at night is best managed by consistency and predictability. Every time you have a successful bedtime, the good feelings grow, and eventually, your child is prepared to fall asleep without any concern.
4. Bad experiences can have a big impact.
Separation anxiety disorder is defined by “developmentally inappropriate and excessive worry around separation from home or from those to whom the individual is related,” according to studies.
The symptoms of separation anxiety may appear suddenly, be suddenly acute, or gradually get more intense. Children who struggle with separation anxiety may have been negatively influenced in the past.
A bad experience might be the issue if your kid finds it extremely difficult to be apart from you, if they don’t want to leave the house, or if they get queasy when it’s time to leave.
When we are reunited with our children, it is crucial to check in with them. It’s crucial to prepare them, and the follow-up is equally crucial. Talk to your children about their experiences and reassure them that you are always available if they ever feel unsafe, something distressing occurs, or they become perplexed by something or someone.
We need to maintain the lines of communication open, just like with so many other facets of parenting. This may also entail making a therapist or other trusted adult available to our children.
It is crucial that we take things in stride, set an example of the right behavior when specifics of unpleasant experiences are revealed, and work together to find a solution.
One method to make sure our kids are safe is to take them out of the setting entirely if that is appropriate. However, the key word here is “appropriate,” as removal isn’t always the best course of action.
One of the problems we as parents can fall into is rewarding unhelpful behaviors related to separation anxiety. Our children may feel less secure if we give in to temper tantrums or unfounded illness claims.
This is because it gives them complete control. They depend on us to assist them, to help them navigate their situation, and to assure them that they are always protected.
To do this, we can:
- Talk through the negative experience.
- Talk about taking action, if necessary.
- Include the other caregivers.
Discussing future solutions and giving our children the resources they need to succeed
- Lots of practice at home and with the person(s) involved
Our children must gain self-assurance, learn to manage the situations they can on their own, and understand that they don’t always have to because we are there for them.
5. Your Child Has Been Through Trauma
As parents, we are unable to have complete influence over our kids’ lives. Not every unfortunate event that occurs to them is due to negligent parenting or mishaps. Our children may occasionally suffer trauma due to events beyond our control.
Trauma is a bad event, but it’s really different from a miscommunication or just something your kid didn’t like. Trauma is far more serious and calls for greater assistance.
Caregivers are not always aware of or accountable for what their children have gone through, similar to the foster mom we previously discussed. It is our duty to do everything in our power to care for, support, and love them.
When children attach to a person or location, they are telling us a lot about their separation anxiety. It’s because to them, that person or location symbolizes safety. On occasion, what appears safe isn’t. Sometimes, what appears safe is actually safe.
You are undoubtedly the type of parent or caretaker who wants the best for your children if you are reading this post. This implies that you serve as their haven. They are clinging to you because they feel comfortable with you if they are exhibiting symptoms of separation anxiety and/or trauma.
This is advantageous. The next stage is to enlist experts in order to assist your child in overcoming the trauma, healing, and moving on.
Speak with the therapist, pediatrician, or other dependable family members about your child. Create a team to help your family and your child.
There are numerous causes for a child’s separation anxiety. Where they feel safe can be inferred from the people and locations they run to when they are terrified.
Your family can get through it by communicating, reinforcing and modeling appropriate behavior, creating a safe, predictable atmosphere, preparing our children for new situations and people, and, if necessary, seeking professional assistance.
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