Most parents remember the exact moment when their babies cried when they left them home or with another person for the first time. If you think that this is just a condition that will naturally fade away, there is a high chance that you are not exactly right. While separation anxiety is especially prevalent in kids between 9 and 18 months, it tends to resurface over the years of childhood.
So what exactly is Separation anxiety in kids?
Also known as stranger anxiety, this is simply wariness and distress that a kid goes through when they are surrounded by people they are too familiar with. This worry and distress tends to reduce after the first birthday but varies from one kid to another.
What are some signs of separation anxiety in kids?
If you think your kids may be going through separation anxiety, here are some sighns:
Hates anytime they need to be apart from you
Feel insecure anytime you go out
Refuses or has difficulty attending school or even day care centres where they are sorrounde by unfamiliar people
Feigns illness anytime you need to leave them behind or in the care of someone else
Refuses to go to sleep when you are not around
Fear of separation persist for more than 4 weeks
What do I do to help my kid get over separation anxiety?
Most parents prefer sneaking out when the baby is calm rather than allowing them to see them leave. While this is definitely much easier and less frustrating for you, it is not beneficial when it comes to separation anxiety. In fact it makes the situation even worse. If you keep sneaking out you are only making them more insecure as they will not trust you next time and will be more vigilantly protective of you. Here is how to effectively deal with separation anxiety:
- Always tell your child when you are leaving, why you have to leave and the time you will be back. This is a great learning opportunity that will help you teach them time and accountability
- Engage in fun activities with your kid before they leave, for instance if they in a completely new environment, they need a fun activity to feel familiar with the place and people before you leave
- To make your kid feel more secure and safe, carry them something they adore from home such as their favourite stuffed animal or blanket. Gradually phase out these soothing objects as the baby learns to deal with this anxiety.
- When you are leaving the baby, have a happy expression and demeanour. Kids can read and understand your cures, if you look nervous and sad, your little one will automatically feel insecure, unsafe and incapable of settling down when you leave them
If you keep sneaking out you are only making them more insecure as they will not trust you next time and will be more vigilantly protective of you
- Inform the day care centre or kindergarten about your child’s separation anxiety so that they also offer additional helps and support
- Don’t be mean and openly frustrated with your child. For instance avoid criticising them when they are acting out. Words like ‘you are acting stupid’ will only make the situation worse.
- Make e a conscious effort to boost a child self esteem and self confidence. You can systematically achieve this by giving them your attention and also complementing them consistently.
When to seek professional help:
Take time to know and understand your child thoroughly so that you know when the situation is out of hand and professional helps is necessary. Some indicators that the situation is getting out of hand include
- Irritability and acting out violently when you leave despite trying to calm them down
- When the anxiety does not fade after and they don’t engage with others
- Inability to handle you going out without them
- Being unnecessarily mean and stubborn to the people you leave them with
- Excluding themselves from social groups such as the in their day care center or preschool
If you cannot deal with your baby’s anxiety seek professional help from counselors and child professionals who are knowledgeable and experienced in child anxiety.