The following is from our guest writer, Shyla, who runs the Sincere Mommy blog. Thanks for sharing, Shyla!
Many parents have heard the phrase “separation anxiety” used loosely to describe a response by a child who misses their parents or is a bit homesick. From ages 8-14 months old, children often go through a phase of being fearful of strangers, new places, and new situations. This is considered to be completely normal, and at that age everything is a new sight to behold. Imagine being brand new into the world and being dragged into bright lights and into all of the hustle and bustle at a busy Supermarket. Of course a child would become clingy in that situation! Who would blame them?! However, if the child is over 6 years of age and continuously has this problem for longer than 4 weeks, the child may have Separation Anxiety Disorder.
What is Separation Anxiety Disorder Really?
Separation Anxiety Disorder is when a child becomes fearful and terribly nervous when they are away from their home or a loved one such as a parent or caregiver that the child is attached to. This seems pretty bad, but sometimes there are actual symptoms involved such as headaches or stomach aches when even the thought of being separated arises. This problem is increasingly more serious when the separation anxiety begins to interfere with the child’s day at school or ability to play with other children. The child will often find themselves worried that if they leave their parent/caregiver that something bad will happen to the parent/caregiver. Often the anxiety begins with thoughts like: What if Grandma doesn’t pick me up from school? What if I get lost? What if I get kidnapped? These thoughts can quickly cause the child to feel extremely upset and uneasy.
What children are affected?
This disorder can effect at least 4% of children through any given school year. Anxiety itself often peaks in certain developmental points in a child’s life such as when they begin Kindergarten or when they begin going to Middle school or High school. This condition can often lead children to have missed opportunities such as not wanting to go on field trips because they are too worried about missing their loved one or something terrible happening. Often times the child will have poor attendance due to feeling ill from the anxiety of having to go to school. There are many ways this disorder can have an effect on children and being able to identify this disorder and discern it from normal clinginess is key to treating it properly.
How can it be treated?
Children may need to have some form of therapy regarding their disorder. Be sure to listen to the child and respect the child’s feelings, this is absolutely of key importance. Listening to the child and accepting what he or she has to say may have more of a healing effect than you’d think. Try to be as empathetic as possible with the child and if you can remind them that there have been many times in which you have been separated in the past and that everything was just fine, this time will be no different. Do your best to show them how you are able to be calm in the face of separation and in turn the child may do the same. If your child at some point becomes comfortable enough to start participating in activities PRAISE THEM! Reward them for being involved and not being too scared to try something new. This is a huge stepping stone to becoming more independent.
Encouraging a child to be independent is sometimes difficult on the parent’s part. A surprising amount of parents tend to become overbearing and overprotective of their child. This excessive amount of sheltering of the child sometimes will hinder their desire to become independent. It is up to us as parents to let go at times (even though it seems extremely hard to do so) so that our children can get out of their comfort zone and begin to gain new experiences that are outside the box. Often times parents do not see that they are sheltering their child too much. I myself have a tendency to want to protect my child from even the simplest of situations. It is easy to understand why a parent would be a bit nervous and perhaps overly protective of their child if they are just starting school or have a new friend who they would like to visit.
Be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Changing a routine is a hard thing to do. I personally am not a fan of change and I find myself not wanting to start something new or going out of my own comfort zone. When our children are beginning to exhibit these traits and perhaps even develop an anxiety of new things or any amount of independent activity, perhaps we should ask ourselves if this is something that we as parents have contributed to. While this may not always be the case, it is a possibility for some. Simply evaluate your own personal situation. Encourage your child to try new things and do your best not to pull them back from
it. Test the waters, if you are not very comfortable with this step then start small. Allow them to spend a slightly longer time than usual playing at the park with other children, let them join the extra curricular activities they like, encourage them to follow their dreams. When they ask to do something that you aren’t sure about, give it some extra thought before you tell them no. Give in to change in your routine, your child may stand to benefit from it.
Take serious action when needed.
Keep an open mind going forward, give your child the encouragement they need. Talk to them about their fears, and be understanding. Hear them out! If the problem persists and becomes debilitating for your child for an extended period of time be sure to contact a professional to seek help.
Thank you Candace of WorkingMomX for allowing me to contribute a guest post to your blog!
– Sincere Mommy
Sources for information.
All photos from www.pexels.com, I do not own or claim to own images within this post.