I’m sure you’ve already seen this scene: the mother or the father puts the baby in someone else’s lap and that’s it… the child starts to cry. Or, parents have an appointment and need to leave the child with someone else, but the child doesn’t want to go and there’s that scandal at the door. We know that nobody is born knowing anything, including how to deal with their own emotions. These are classic examples of separation anxiety: children who are afraid of being away from their parents. But after all, what can be done to improve this situation?
It is very common that babies and younger children do not cope well with different people and do not want to be away from their father, mother or other reference figures. They often cry, show insecurity, fear, and worries, which may be related to the fantasy that the parents will not return.
As a result, this situation generates famous separation anxiety in the child. Thus, even the most everyday situations, such as going to school or bedtime, can become a great difficulty for the family.
Is separation anxiety normal?
Absolutely! Separation anxiety is part of child development and is common in young children. This condition may appear even in families where affective bonds are well-structured and parents are participatory, present, and loving. After all, it is precisely because of this that the child may feel insecure and unprotected without their presence.
Generally, around the age of 2, the symptoms of separation anxiety from parents tend to diminish, until they disappear completely. However, it is important to remember that each child is unique and needs to have its adaptation time respected.
In addition, unexpected and specific situations can trigger separation anxiety. For example a recent loss, the arrival of a new baby, moving house, school or city… These situations can be triggers for the child, so they need to be carefully observed.
What to do in the face of separation anxiety?
Anxiety only eases when the child understands that the mother leaves home but returns and that the goodbye is not final. Until your child gets there, a good dose of patience will be required. If you are facing this situation at home, keep calm. At each stage, there are strategies you can use to help your baby overcome this fear. Some tips can help you deal with this situation:
Train the concept of separation early on
With babies, hide-and-seek games can be interesting. The mother or father leaves the child’s field of vision, then returns. This shows in a fun way that there is absence, but also return.
Tell the child that you need to go out and, as much as possible, explain the reason and the time of return, always remembering that unforeseen things can happen (and are perfectly normal).
But don’t be afraid to go out either!
Fathers and mothers should not reinforce the child’s behavior by avoiding separation or rewarding the child’s absence in any way. For example: after a period of separation, let him sleep in his parents’ bed, let him miss school, take him along to all appointments, etc.). Although it may seem like a welcoming behavior, it often ends up even encouraging the permanence of separation anxiety.
Be natural when saying good-bye
Have a positive attitude when saying goodbye to your little ones. When parents are calm, the child finds it easier to understand the separation. If the parents show guilt, sadness, or difficulties when saying good-bye, the child usually sees the situation as something bad. Remember that parents are the children’s role models.
Teach the child to occupy time to get around separation anxiety
Help the child to think of cool things that she can do during this time. Activities at school, playing with friends, going out with uncles or grandparents.
Don’t scold crying
The child usually cannot understand his feelings, and crying is the way he finds to express himself.
What if this phase does not pass?
It is expected that over time, with growth and maturation, separation anxiety will decrease, as the child is already able to understand what it means.
However, if the condition does not regress, it is important to seek help and seek the assistance of a psychologist. Besides causing suffering, separation anxiety may be a risk factor for the development of other anxiety disorders and depression (in more severe cases) in adult life. Appropriate treatment will help the child to deal with the emotions and will bring many benefits to the child and the whole family.