By| Published: June 10th, 2016
Children between the ages of six months and three years often get clingy and cry when parents leave them with loved ones or other trusted child care providers. Babies and toddlers are also afraid of strangers, but they usually grow out of it. An emotional milestone that generally begins at 8 to 9 months of age and peaks between ages 10 and 18 months, separation anxiety is a normal stage of development and rarely requires medical treatment. It fades by the time the child is 2 years old.
Why does Separation Anxiety occur?
Separation anxiety is a sign that a baby now realises that there is only one of you and how dependent they are on the people who care for them – parents, grandparents or professionals closely involved with their care. As they become more aware of their surroundings and the world around them, the child’s strong relationship with this small group means they don’t feel safe without them. They may also feel unsafe or upset with new people or new situations, even if you are in sight. The classic signs vary from crying and fussing to screaming and tantrums. More importantly, separation anxiety is a sign of how well you have bonded with your child.
What is Separation Anxiety Disorder?
Infants and toddlers neither have a sense of time nor any memories of past experiences. Whether you go out for a few hours or whether you just step into another room for a few minutes, they will become upset when you are not together. A new sibling, a new home, family stress or tension or a new childcare situation may worsen the condition in older children. It is important that parents prevent the problem from escalating into a more serious condition known as separation anxiety disorder where their anxiety seems intense or prolonged. It may relate to either parent or even another close caregiver.
Symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder:
Separation anxiety disorder occurs as early as preschool age. It may interfere with school or other daily activities and also includes panic attacks or other problems.
• Constant worry that something bad will happen, causing separation from parents
• Excessive and constant anxiety about losing a parent to an illness or a disaster
• Frequent complaints of headaches, stomach aches or other symptoms when separation from a parent is anticipated
• Refusing to leave home due to fear of separation
• Refusing to be alone and without a parent in the house
• Excessive and recurrent distress about being away from home or parents
• Repeated nightmares about separation
A kiss on the check, a gentle and quick goodbye along with the reassurance that you will return soon is all that it takes to help your child cope with separation anxiety. Be patient till they learn that they will be fine if they are away from you for a short time. Consult a doctor only if your child remains upset for a long time after you have left them, the separation is causing them a lot of distress, or it has been going on for more than a few weeks.