Helping Children Cope with Separation Anxiety

Anxious Kids

It is completely normal for a child to feel anxious or nervous when saying goodbye to mom or dad. This feeling is a natural part of development, but it can be more difficult to deal with for some kids. Going to daycare, starting school, or even leaving the room can have some kids feeling upset, but the variation in this experience for some children can be quite significant. Many children experience some form of separation anxiety from the time they are about a year old until they are around 4, though it is still common and not too unusual for older children to experience this as well. But in order to make the separation easier to handle, it helps to know what you can do to ease their worry and help them feel more comfortable.

Ease Into It

It helps to practice leaving your child for short periods of time before anything drastic like the first day of school or the first day at an all-day day care. Simply leaving the room for periods of time while the child is supervised can help. Children who grow up with babysitters or are taken care of by grandparents or other family members during the day while their parents work tend to experience less separation anxiety because they are used to the experience but are still in a safe and comfortable (if not already familiar) environment. Practicing separation can be difficult for some kids, but the more commonplace it is, the less scary it may seem.

Check Your Schedule

Younger children tend to experience more intense forms of separation anxiety when they are tired or hungry, so try to work around nap and snack times. Leaving your child during these times of day can increase their anxiety and make them more upset or less likely to adapt to the situation.

Make it a Habit

Developing a goodbye or parting ritual can help normalize separation for shorter periods of time. If children associate this ritual with positive thoughts, memories, and affirmations, it can make the time apart much easier to handle as well.

Separation can be more of an issue for some kids than others, and if your child has particular trouble with the ordeal, then they may have other anxiety issues that need addressing. It’s important to discuss any problems with a primary care physician or a child psychologist who can then help identify what your child is struggling with and how best to go about treatment.