Is Your Child Experiencing Separation Anxiety?

Tips to ease your child's separation anxiety


Separation anxiety is a condition in which a child becomes fearful and nervous when away from home or separated from a parent or caregiver. Separation anxiety is common for children under 3-4 years old, but some older children also experience bouts of separation anxiety. Separation anxiety may be more common at the beginning of the school year or in January after the school break, but can be experienced at any time.

Look For Signs

The first step in easing separation anxiety is being aware that your child is experiencing it. Many children will say they do not want to go to school. Listen to what your child is saying and look out for behavior changes. Separation anxiety may manifest itself in physical ways, such as headaches or stomachaches. It can also manifest in other ways, such as refusal to leave your side, tears or other unrelated fears.

Get Back Into The Routine 

Returning to school after a long break is hard for many children. Start preparing your child for the return to school a few days in advance. Get back into the same routine your child was following during the school year. Allow your child's body to adjust to an earlier bedtime if you allowed them to stay up later on vacation. 

Be Consistent

If your child is cared for by multiple caregivers make sure there is a consistent routine. Routines help children develop security and learn self-discipline; routines make children feel safe and comfortable.

Routines may also prevent tantrums and meltdowns. Routines are especially important for a child who experiences anxiety because it allows them to feel in control and know what to expect.

Identify Triggers

Pay attention to when your child is experiencing separation anxiety. If your child has trouble separating some days and not others, look for patterns.

Many children have anxious or nervous feelings if they are rushed during their morning routine. Try and keep the morning routine calm, positive and stress-free. Check out 6 ideas that will make your kids want to get ready in the morning.

Let Your Child Talk About It

Give your child a safe space to talk about their feelings. Listen to your child's concerns without jumping into rescue mode or telling them how they should feel. Sometimes kids just need someone to listen and validate their feelings. Your child may share that there is a kid at school who behaves in a way that makes them upset or they are worried about getting in trouble from the teacher. Once your child shares their feelings, you and the teacher can make a plan together.

Setting Limits and Expectations

Setting limits is important to help your child adjust to going back to school. Reassure your child that he or she will be fine, say "goodbye" and do not linger at school. Let your child know when he or she can expect you back and keep to your word. Your child needs to know he or she can trust and depend on you.

When To Be Concerned

Normal separation anxiety will go away on its own. If separation anxiety lasts for months or interferes with other age-appropriate activities, your child may be experiencing something more severe.

In this situation, you may want to see a therapist.

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