Separation Anxiety in Children: Advice from the Cleveland Clinic

by | May 19, 2024 | Parenting | 0 comments

Separation anxiety is a common developmental stage for children aged 9 to 18 months, often resolving as they grow more confident and accustomed to routine separations. However, if anxiety persists for over four weeks and disrupts daily life, it could indicate separation anxiety disorder, affecting 1% to 4% of the pediatric population. Based on this great article by the Cleveland Clinic, read on to learn more and find solutions for separation anxiety in children. Symptoms vary, including distress about being away from home, unrealistic fears of harm, refusal to engage in activities without a caregiver, physical complaints, and nightmares. Dr. Heather Sever emphasizes that responses to anxiety can differ by age, with younger children displaying emotional outbursts and older children exhibiting physical symptoms.

Separation anxiety can stem from various factors, including developmental stages, general anxiety, trauma, environmental changes, or family dynamics. Dr. Sever advises parents to support their child’s transition towards independence through early practice separations, building familiarity with new environments, clear communication, and consistent routines. Positive reinforcement is crucial, avoiding criticism and instead encouraging and celebrating independent behavior. Keeping goodbyes brief and consistent can help ease anxiety during separations.

While separation anxiety typically resolves without intervention, severe and prolonged cases may require professional help. Consulting a pediatrician can lead to cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, or, in more severe instances, medication, all aimed at addressing the root causes and teaching coping mechanisms. This approach ensures children can develop healthy independence and confidence over time.

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