Dealing with Separation anxiety in kids.
How do I deal with Separation Anxiety is a common question for every Parent?
Even I have experienced the same when my son and daughter started schooling. It was a Monday morning and my daughter was just 3-year-old and she got admission in one of the reputed schools. She was not alone; she already had her brother along with her to take care of her. But she is not like her brother, she always used to cling on me and never left me alone neither did she.
It was very hard to make her get ready for school for almost 7 months. First 4 months were torture to her and me. The moment I wake her up she uses to say only one thing “mamma there is no school today, even it is there I don’t want to go” with tears in her eyes.
It was very hard to see her in tears for months together. I know it’s very natural for a child to feel anxious when they leave you for the first time, especially at a very early childhood age.
Few kids get adjusted very easily, few gets adjusted within a month or two but for a few kids it takes a lot of time to deal with separation like my daughter. Having patience and consistency is the only way you can deal with such a situation.
What Causes Separation anxiety-
- Fear and unrealistic worry that something bad will happen to their parents if they leave the child.
- Fear that unexpected situation will lead to permanent separation from their parents.
- Fear of what if my parents don’t return home once they leave me?
- Fear of being kidnapped or left alone when parents leave them.
- Children whose parents are overprotective may be prone to separation anxiety.
- Symptoms of separation anxiety
- Refuse to go to school, this can be for any reason but it could also be a separation anxiety issue as well. A child with separation anxiety can do anything to stay at home.
- Repeated nightmares with a theme of separation.
- Being very clingy even at home and doesn’t go to anyone even if it’s a near family member.
- Panic or temper tantrums at times of separation from parents.
- Reluctant to go to sleep. Separation anxiety can make a child insomniac due to fear of nightmares or being alone.
- Bet wetting.
- Physical illness like muscle pains, headache or stomach ache.
Helping a child with separation anxiety
Educate yourself. Before we can educate a child about the issue, we need to understand a child’s perspective on how he feels and experiences when you leave him.
Keep calm when your child shows tantrum because of anxiety. When your child sees you stay calm, they are more likely to be calm, too.
Listening. For a child who is already in anxiety, listening to his feelings and acknowledging the child can be a powerful healing effect.
Be empathetic and talk about the issue in a very gentle manner, that they can survive even after separation and it won’t be for a long time.
Send notes for your child to read. You can place a note for your child in their lunch box or locker. A quick “I love you!” on a napkin can reassure a child.
Reward your child’s efforts. Just like at home, every good effort—or small step in the right direction—deserves to be praised.
Talk therapy. Talk therapy provides a safe place for your child to express their feelings. Having someone to listen empathetically and guide your child toward understanding their anxiety can be a powerful treatment.
Play therapy. The therapeutic use of play is a common and effective way to get kids talking about their feelings.
School-based counselling. This can help your child with separation anxiety disorder explore the social, behavioural, and academic demands of school.
Games that help in separation Anxiety
The classic separation/return games are peek-a-boo and “where’s the baby?”
I like playing peek-a-boo with the feet. With the baby lying on his back, lift the legs “up, up, up” to hide your face, and then “Peek-a-boo!” as you open the legs wide. Often babies love to open their legs themselves to find you.
In “Where’s the Baby?”, drop a lightweight cloth over your baby’s head, ask, “Where’s the baby?” and pull the cloth again grinning and saying, “There you are!” Soon your baby will delight at pulling the cloth off and laughing. The cloth can also be placed over your head, or you can partially hide behind a chair or around a corner where you will be easily discovered.
Hiding and finding objects is another fun form of separation/return play; under clothes or buckets, anywhere the baby can delight in finding you.
With practice separations, tell your baby that you will be going to another room and that you’ll be back soon (even though the baby will not understand the words yet). If there’s crying, repeat the reassurance that you’ll be back soon. Then pop back in smiling and say, “Hello”. “Bye-bye” is one of the first words most babies learn. You want to teach them to understand hello as soon as you can. Gradually make these practice separations longer and longer. The baby will learn that you’ll come and that it’s okay when you are gone for a bit.
When you leave, good-byes should be brief, affectionate, and with a clear statement that you will be back. If the caregiver can engage your child with a toy or mirror, it can make you’re leaving easier. If you are leaving your child at daycare or someplace other than home, the separation will be easier if you spend a few minutes there with your child (and also with the new caregiver).
Transitional objects, such as blankets or stuffed animals, are healthy ways to minimize separation anxiety.
Regular routines make the “returning” lesson easier to learn.
Suggestion for parents
When you must leave, do not make a big fuss over leaving and do not sneak out. Children need a simple, direct, “Bye-bye, I’ll be back.” Be sure to tell them when you’ll be back.