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Updated on November 30, 2020

Child Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is the feeling of distress or fear when a child is separated from the primary caregiver (usually from one or both parents).  This is normal when the child is young but usually resolves with age and emotional maturity.  However, it can be a problem when the symptoms are intense, or the child becomes severely agitated to the extent that it affects his/her normal activities.

Common causes of Separation Anxiety

  • Over-bearing or over-protective parent(s)
  • Divorce or unhappy marriage with constant arguments in the house
  • Change in environment (new school or new home are common triggers)
  • Family member leaving home
  • Death in the family

Click to view KatiMorton video on Separation Anxiety

Separation is defined as having 3 of more of these behaviours

  • Recurrent excessive distress when anticipating separation from home or parent(s)
  • Persistent worry about losing parent(s)
  • Persistent worry about experiencing a distressing event (such as accident or kidnapping) which can cause separation
  • Reluctance to leave home to go to school for fear of separation
  • Reluctance of being alone anywhere without parent(s)
  • Reluctance to sleep alone without being near parent(s)
  • Repeated nightmares of being separated
  • Complaints of symptoms like stomach aches, headaches or being ill when anticipating being separated

Some tips to ease the Separation Anxiety

  • Talk calmly about the issue with your child
  • Listen and respect your child’s feelings and opinion
  • Practice short duration of separations to allow the child to get used to the feeling of being separated.  Do NOT sneak out without telling them
  • Have a routine to schedule routine separation after feeding or during naps
  • Have a consistent caregiver who will replace you during the separation period
  • Ensure the surroundings are familiar such as having a helper come to your house or dropping the child off at the same childminder’s place
  • Leave the child without making a big fuss
  • Ensure you are punctual in picking up and keep your promises
  • Try to be firm and not give in
  • Give encouragement and praise for your child’s efforts
  • Help your child make new friends and participate in social or physical activities such as play dates

Consult with a Counsellor or Therapist if your child has any of these issues.  Early intervention has better chances of success

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Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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