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Separation Αnxiety

How can Ι help my child with separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is when the separation from a parent/guardian causes distress to the child. It’s those situations you see at schools when parents drop off their children and are met with a screaming protest. Yes, if you are reading this article you know what I mean! Those tears and screams when it comes to leaving your child that makes you wonder where you went wrong! Well the truth is you haven’t done something wrong. Separation anxiety can affect children of all ages. So let's talk about some ways you can minimize this anxiety.

The first step is recognising that your child is experiencing separation anxiety. Try to identify the situations that cause the most stress to your child and then you can begin to make changes that will help them.

άγχος αποχωρισμού

Separation Anxiety During Infancy

Το άγχος αποχωρισμού συνήθως ξεκινάει μόλις το βρέφος αναπτύξει την ικανότητα της μονιμότητας του αντικειμένου (καταλαβαίνει ότι ένα αντικείμενο ή ένας άνθρωπος συνεχίζει να υπάρχει ακόμα και όταν δεν το/ν βλέπουμε ή ακούμε) και αντιλαμβάνεται ότι οι γονείς του μπορούν να το αφήσουν. Ένας τρόπος να μειώσουμε το άγχος που προκαλεί αυτό στο βρέφος είναι να το φέρνουμε συχνά σε επαφή και με αλλα μέλη της οικογένειας ή του στενού μας κύκλου από νωρίς. Αυτό θα το κάνει πιο εύκολο στο παιδί αργότερα να το αφήνετε με άλλους ενήλικες (όπως τους δασκάλους στο σχολείο). Ενώ μπορεί να μπαίνετε στον πειρασμό να φύγετε κρυφά από το σπίτι για να αποφύγετε τους δύσκολους αποχαιρετισμούς με το παιδί σας αυτό μπορεί να του προκαλέσει έλλειψη εμπιστοσύνης και σύγχυση. Αντί να προσπαθήσετε να ξεγλιστρήσετε σαν τον κλέφτη, προσπαθήστε να συνεργαστείτε με τον άλλο γονέα (ή υπεύθυνο ενήλικα) έχοντας ένα σχέδιο για να του αποσπάσετε την προσοχή μετά τον αποχωρισμό. Μπορείτε για παράδειγμα να κάνετε μια δραστηριότητα που απολαμβάνει. Αυτό θα βοηθήσει να απαλύνει το άγχος και θα θέσει τα θεμέλια ώστε να εξαλειφθεί αυτό το αγχος μεγαλώνοντας.

Separation Anxiety And Toddlers

Many children experience a peak in separation anxiety when they are toddlers. During this stage they understand that the parent will return and may start a tantrum to avoid the separation altogether. At this point consistency, stability and the creation of a ritual can be your greatest allies. A short, fun goodbye, such as a secret handshake that is personal to you and your child can help create a sense of security and associate something fun with the goodbye. Be careful not to make the ritual too long as this can extend and amplify the anxiety.

Just like in infancy a distraction can also prove quite helpful. Try to provide them with a small task like closing the car window. This can also ease the anxiety of goodbyes. It’s also important to be consistent and pick up your child at the time you have agreed. This will help build trust and confidence in your return. Because at this age they might not fully grasp the concept of time, try to explain when you will be picking them up based on their schedule. For example “You will have your lunch, and then I will pick you up”.

Separation Anxiety During School Years

The start of school can bring separation anxiety to the surface in older children too. In this case, preparation can be the key to overcoming it. If it’s possible, try to arrange to go visit the classroom and meet the class teacher before the first day of school. This will help the environment feel familiar and make it easier when the separation day arrives.

Another way to prepare is to leave your child with other family members or trusted adults for small periods of time to begin with and then slowly for extended periods of time in the weeks leading up to the start of school. This way your child will get used to being separated from you for longer periods of time. Also, establishing a routine for getting ready to go to school in the morning can help create a sense of security and minimize anxiety.

Another method you can try; which is one of my favorites, is the creation of a transitional object. Spend some time with your child to decorate a small object (such as a small rock or a keychain) that they can take to school with them and will be symbolic of your relationship. This way every time they look at it they will be reminded of how much you love them and that you will soon be together again.

Separation Anxiety in Teenagers

Separation anxiety can affect anyone, even teenagers. However at this age you will need to take a different approach. The most important thing to ease teenage separation anxiety is to be open about having conversations about it. This needs to be done carefully without diminishing their feelings by giving the impression that they are overreacting. Instead try to work with them to find ways that will help minimize their anxiety. Their ideas may surprise you!

If none of these methods seem to be working it may be a good idea to consult a professional.

Laura Labrou
[email protected]