Part One: Separation Anxiety in Children

August 7, 2023

It’s becoming more common to see signs and symptoms of separation anxiety in children. As a parent, it is crucial for you to notice the signs and take appropriate action. Read on to hear what our clinicians suggest to aid in coping and introducing therapy into your child’s life!

Wedad Omer, Resident in Counseling

Therapy for children with separation anxiety provides essential support and guidance to help them manage their fears and develop coping strategies. Through techniques such as psychoeducation, cognitive-behavioral therapy, gradual exposure, and role-playing, therapists help children understand their anxiety, challenge negative thoughts, and practice effective coping mechanisms. Parental involvement is crucial in creating a supportive environment and implementing strategies at home. Therapy empowers children to build resilience, overcome separation anxiety, and navigate separations with increased confidence and well-being.

Miguel Alcantara, Resident in Counseling

Therapy for children who have separation anxiety requires different people to be involved in the child’s life; parents most importantly. When a child is experiencing separation anxiety, there is a constant worry that begins to affect them in different ways. Sometimes it can look like temper tantrums, excessive crying, being clingy even at home, and some physical complaints like stomachaches and headaches.

Providing the child with some coping skills and teaching them how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. Taking that fear and reframing it into reassurance that can be reinforced by the parents can aid in reducing anxiety symptoms.

Lydia Hatcher, Resident in Counseling

Separation anxiety is a normal developmental issue. Children who suffer from separation anxiety have symptoms that are rooted in fear and anxiety. They struggle with the distress of being without the security of their comfort attachment figure. This distress can also impact the child’s ability to go alone to areas in their own home. They feel insecure unless they are in the presence of their attachment figure. Sleeping alone in their own bed becomes a challenge for them, and they frequently avoid joining sleepovers with friends or family. School becomes problematic when separation anxiety triggers problems academically which could then cause the child to isolate socially.

What to do?

Find ways to first acknowledge and validate the child’s fear of separation, and then explore ways to provide reassurance and confidence as the child learns to build levels of independence. Help the child to identify ways to replace the fear of separation with some type of substitute object (maybe a photo, small object, etc.).

Also, reassure the child that the separation is temporary and will end at a specific time. The child may have an easier time becoming distracted and involved with/interested in the activities going on around them.

Stay tuned for the second part of our Separation Anxiety in Children series. Until next time, Be Wise!