Separation anxiety is normal for children, but can it become a diagnosable disorder?
Separation anxiety in children is quite common when they are between 8 and 14 months old. They are afraid of being away from their primary caregivers and represent it through crying and tantrums so that they can feel the attachment of their primary caregivers again. It is a healthy part of children’s development and should not be a cause for concern in principle .
In contrast, when separation anxiety disorder appears, things change, because it is outside the limits of the normal developmental stage of healthy growth of a young child.
SYMPTOMS OF NORMAL SEPARATION ANXIETY
The symptoms of separation anxiety as a normal developmental stage last up to two years and include elements that will make parents not want to leave their children, unless they have no choice. The normal symptoms are:
- Excessive crying
- Holding the parent’s body or clothing tightly
- Shout out
- Refusal to commit to being with other caregivers
EXTERNAL FACTORS THAT CAN MAKE SEPARATION ANXIETY WORSE
There are times when separation anxiety can be made worse by stressors such as:
- New situations where children must get out of their usual routines (new caregiver, a growing move or the birth of a new sibling).
- Family difficulties, such as relationship problems, financial problems … stress in adults will make children feel the negative effect at home.
SEPARATION ANXIETY IN OLDER CHILDREN
It is normal for some older children, particularly shy children , to go through a phase where they do not want their parents to leave. However, a caregiver can usually redirect the child to participate in group activities.
Children older than 2 years who do not respond to redirection or show severe symptoms may be suffering from separation anxiety disorder.
WHEN DOES SEPARATION ANXIETY BECOME A DISORDER?
Separation anxiety disorder is a specific psychological disorder that is different from normal separation anxiety, although it can be difficult to tell the difference because symptoms can overlap. The most common symptoms in separation anxiety disorder include:
- Stomach ache
- Excessive fears or worry that something will happen to parents while they are separated from their children
- Resounding refusal to participate in activities separated from their parents with inconsolable crying while the separation lasts
- Age-inappropriate separation anxiety in older children or adults
HOW TO MANAGE NORMAL SEPARATION ANXIETY
Normal separation anxiety can be controlled with a joint effort between parents and caregivers, with establishing a routine as the most critical component for success. Don’t give in to the temptation to sneak away, as this can make children more fearful and anxious . The next time your child gets anxious when you leave, keep the following in mind:
- Explain to your child what will happen in words that he can understand. Tell him where you are going and who will be in charge, also when you will return.
- Give your child time to adjust to his new school or school. Let him get used to it before you leave.
- Stay calm and optimistic. Focus on the fun your child will have in treating the separation as normal.
- Take advantage of small successes by leaving him for an hour or two the first day and gradually increase the amount of time for your return.
TREATMENT FOR SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER
Separation anxiety disorder may require professional intervention with a trained mental health professional. You will need to provide as much detail as possible about your child’s behavior when you are away. The professional will give you guidelines to better cope with the situation and for your child to be able to be separated from you.
Dr. Tabriella Perivolaris, Sara's mother and fan of fashion, beauty, motherhood, among others, about the female universe. Since 2018 she has been working as a copywriter, always bringing to her articles a little of her experience and experience as a mother and woman.