What is separation anxiety and how do you manage it?

What is separation anxiety and how to manage it. From the first months after birth, babies develop separation anxiety, manifested by crying and agitation when the parent is away.

What is separation anxiety and how do you manage it?

What is separation anxiety
What is separation anxiety

Although separation anxiety is a perfectly normal part of development, it can become unsettling for parents.


  1. How separation anxiety manifests itself according to age
  2. How does the parent feel when his child develops separation anxiety
  3. How to manage your child's separation anxiety

Separation anxiety varies from child to child. Some babies become agitated when their mother disappears for a very short time, but this improves over time, and others begin to develop anxiety as they go to kindergarten.

Along with children, parents also suffer when they see their children showing anxiety. Even though we are often reminded that a child stop crying within minutes of our departure, how many of us have not felt that we are doing the wrong thing when the child clings to our feet, sighs, and even screams at parting.

How separation anxiety manifests itself according to age?

Children between the ages of 8 months and one year become more independent but are even more insecure about separating from their parents. This is when separation anxiety develops, and children may become agitated and upset when the parent tries to leave. Separation anxiety can be more severe if the little one is hungry, tired or unwell.

The timing of separation anxiety may vary. Some children may go through it later, between 18 months and 2 and a half years, and others never experience it.

The duration of separation anxiety may vary depending on the child and how the parent reacts. In some cases, depending on the child's temperament, separation anxiety may last until the child starts school.

Separation anxiety that affects the normal activities of an older child may be a sign of a deeper anxiety disorder and may indicate that there is another problem, such as aggression or abuse.

How does the parent feel when his child develops separation anxiety?

As a parent, separation anxiety can cause you to experience a variety of emotions. It can be nice to feel that your child is finally as attached to you as you are to him. However, you may feel guilty when you leave it in someone else's care to go to work and feel overwhelmed.

It is important for all parents to understand that separation anxiety is a natural stage in a child's development and is a sign that a healthy attachment has developed between parent and child. It is your child's path to independence, but before you get there you must pass these tests together.

How to manage your child's separation anxiety?

Choose the time of the first partings carefully: Between 8 months and a year, try not to leave your child in the company of someone else from the first hour of the morning. It is good for the parent to be the first person the child sees when he wakes up, only after breakfast and the morning routine to remain in someone else's care. Also, try not to leave when your baby is tired, hungry, or restless. If possible, schedule departures after bedtime and after meals.

Create quick farewell rituals:

It is good that the transition time is short and is accompanied by repeating movements or habits. Whether you make the same sign, always the same, or give the child a toy or a blanket, it is recommended to leave an anchor, so that he understands that you will return and let go more easily.

A routine also helps the parent to leave more calmly, but also allows the child to build a relationship of independence and trust with the parent.

When you leave the child, pay close attention to him, be loving and offer affection, but then say goodbye and leave. Prolonging the moment of separation only because the little one cries or screams only makes things worse.

Keep your promises:

You will build trust and independence and you will help your child to be confident in his ability to stay without you if you keep your promises. The biggest mistake parents make is making promises that they can't keep.

Either they say they'll be right back, but in fact they only get home in the evening, or they can't wait to find out if their child is upset, and they'll be back just a few minutes after they leave. Thus, they give rise to a new episode of separation anxiety and things get worse. So, make it clear when you will return and respect that interval.

Speak specifically, to understand the child:

Provide information about your child's return. If you know you'll be back by 3pm, tell your child, "I'll be back after sleep and before the afternoon snack." Define the time that children can understand.

When you leave for several days, it measures the duration in terms of "sleep". Instead of saying "I'll be home in 3 days", say "I'll be home after 3 long sleeps".

Create separation contexts as a practice exercise:

If you know that there will be a time when you will have to separate from your child for longer periods, create short contexts, in an environment familiar to the child, to make the transition easier.

For example, if you know that you will return to work and the child stays with the nanny or grandparents for a long time, start leaving him or her with the grandparents for a few hours or arrange play meetings with other children and leave another parent in charge.

Before starting kindergarten, do a few reconnaissance visits together, in which you leave him for a short time at the beginning, with you around, to give him the opportunity to adapt.

No matter how hard it is to leave your child screaming and crying in someone else's care, it's important to trust that the person in their care will handle it, so choose it carefully. It is also very important to remember that it is temporary and will pass and that it is a natural stage in the development of any child.

However, it is important to trust your instincts and your child. If your little one repeatedly refuses to go to a certain kindergarten or starts showing signs of stress, such as sleep problems or loss of appetite, there may be a real problem and you need to take action.

If intense separation anxiety lasts until preschool, school, or even later and interferes with daily activities, it could be a sign of a separation anxiety disorder.

Children with this disorder are afraid of losing their family members and are often convinced that something bad will happen.

Talk to a specialist and ask for help if the little one shows severe panic symptoms, manifested by difficulty breathing, headache, tremor, etc. before the father leaves.

For most children, however, the anxiety of being separated from a parent goes away without the need for special assistance.

Over time, children understand that their parents' temporary physical absence does not mean abandonment or lack of care and love.

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