We have a guest post todayon Separation Anxiety, which is a very real problem for both parents and children alike. Stacey Turner is the author of a series of books designed to help with a number of childhood first such as going to nursery; My Tiny Book (available from Amazon)
Separation anxiety is the anxiety provoked in a young child by separation, or the threat of separation, from the child’s mother or main carer. Separation anxiety is often a normal stage of childhood development from approximately eight months (sometimes younger, as was our case with our daughter) to five years. It can occur in older children too, and does also reappear at times of change and stress.
It is vital for the health and well-being of your child to recognise separation anxiety, as it is a form of anxiety requiring help and support. Anxiety is an emotion with the sole purpose of helping us deal with the world around us.
Separation anxiety needs to be recognised to put the right support into place
Five reasons why it is important to recognise separation anxiety to put the appropriate support and care in place to:
- Establish and form healthy attachments to people and places,
- Prevent naughty behaviour being misunderstood or a child labelled as attention-seeking,
- Put help and support in place to minimise distress within the family and at nursery/school,
- Teach a child how to reframe their thinking to overcome the current negative thought patterns. This then paves the way for a happier and clearer way forward, as the child becomes confident using these learnt skills, and
- Build confidence, trust and resilience within a child to happily and confidently move forward.
Sadly, if separation anxiety is not recognised and the right support is not put in place, panic and distress continues and can manifest. The reason for this is that the child doesn’t learn that it’s OK to feel the way they do or how to manage it. There is no magic wand and it does take time, but we can guide our children, to help them feel better and show them it’s not so scary.
Signs of Separation anxiety include being both clingy and retreating to hide
Signs of separations anxiety include:
- Being very clingy,
- Retreating to a corner or hide under furniture,
- Having difficulty settling back to a calm state,
- Finding it distressing to be in their own bedroom and settle themselves to sleep,
- Being reluctant to go to sleep: when a child closes their eyes, you disappear and this can stimulate nightmares,
- Wetting or soiling the bed,
- Experiencing toileting accidents in the day,
- Refusing to go to school: even if your child likes school and their friends,
- Complaining of physical sickness such as a stomach-ache just before or at the time of separation,
- Fearing something will happen to a loved one,
- Worrying that they may be permanently separated from you, and
- Having little appetite or picking at and complaining about food.
I feel it is a helpful reminder to know that it does get easier once help has been sought, you’re not alone and it is very common. It’s OK to feel the way you’re feeling, trust your instincts and bring your child closer to create feelings of safety and trust. Allow your worry to be the force that drives you to reach out for the help you need for your child.
Separation anxiety is not naughtiness
I can assure you, it’s not naughty behaviour! Anxiety is an emotion. Anxious thoughts creep in making the child think that something bad might happen and these thoughts – and feelings – take over. Your child’s body reacts to these anxious thoughts in a fight or flight way. While every child and family are different, the basic patterns of anxious thinking, physical and behavioural symptoms appear in a similar way.
Separation anxiety is anxiety provoked in a young child by separation or the threat of separation from the child’s mother or main carer. Separation anxiety is often a normal stage of childhood development from approximately eight months (sometimes younger, as was our case with our daughter) to five years, sometimes older. It can reappear at times of change and stress.
Separation anxiety can include difficulty in sleeping in their own bedroom, as the child does not want to be on their own and separated. They seek great comfort in being close to parent/carer. The frustration here is it can appear out of nowhere even after your baby/toddler slept blissfully in their own room! It is typically when your child starts realising that they’re their own person and that they are missing you.
Sadly, if it’s not recognised and the right support is not put in place, panic and distress continues and can manifest. The reason for this is that the child doesn’t learn that it’s OK to feel the way they do or how to manage it. There is no magic wand, but we can guide our children, help them to feel better and show them it’s not so scary.
We can help children reframe thinking and form healthy attachments forming good quality and healthy independence.