Dec 4, 2015 Posts By: Dr. Celia Heppner
Coping With Separation Anxiety in Children
Dr. Celia Heppner, a Clinical Psychologist from Children's Health, offers you four tips for coping with your child's separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety is a very normal and expected occurrence among young children, especially for children starting preschool or kindergarten.
Although separation anxiety in children is normal, it can be understandably distressing for you to leave your young child at school that is crying and begging not to be left alone.
Four Tips for Coping With Separation Anxiety in Children
- You can ease separation anxiety by modeling positive coping – your child will look to you for clues about how to respond to this new situation, so the more distress and anxiety you display, the more likely your child is to become anxious.
- Returning to comfort your child multiple times may only reinforce their anxious feelings, as they end up getting more time with and attention from you when they become distressed. Instead, praising your child when you see them coping with their anxiety can help reinforce effective coping behaviors (for example, a parent might say something like “you’re doing a great job of taking deep breaths to stay calm”).
- You can also give your young children a small item to keep with them throughout the day (something like a handwritten note to them, a small photo of your family, or a small object that belongs to you). Having a “transitional object” like this can help young children feel connected to you, even when you are not physically together.
- It also may be helpful to keep in mind that young children with significant separation anxiety don't always look fearful or anxious. For some children, separation anxiety can manifest as oppositional behavior, even though these children do not truly have an externalizing behavior disorder.
Is your child anxious about being away from you all day at school? Leave us a comment to tell us how you help comfort him or her.