What is Separation Anxiety for Children

It is a normal fear for children to be away from their parents. It is a behavior where you find your child protesting (also known as separation protest) when they are suddenly separated from parents. What is separation anxiety for children?

What is separation anxiety for children?

Separation anxiety for children starts as early as eight months and reaches its peak at eighteen months. As they go along through early childhood, separation anxiety gradually goes away.

Another type of anxiety that children face is stranger anxiety, or when children get upset when they are near people, they don’t know. Children feel worried and anxious when they can’t understand or express how they are feeling. They are developing specific fears at this stage, may it towards animals, heights, water, or darkness. These feelings are a normal part and necessary for their development as they learn to cope with life.

What is Separation Anxiety for Children

How to Help Children Deal with Separation Anxiety?

For normal separation anxiety, here are the steps that can help children deal with it easier:

Practice Separation

Practicing separation encourages your children that it’s okay to be away and separated from you and that there’s nothing negative about it. Before you leave, you may settle your child in an entertaining activity. Or you may schedule separation when they are in a good mood, such as after naps or feedings.

Practice a quick “goodbye” ritual

When leaving your child, say when you are leaving and when you will be back. As you go, briefly say goodbye. There is no need to drag it out. Remember to keep a relaxed face as you leave. If they see that you’re worried or sad, they might also feel the same.

Do what you promised

This is important because if you do so, your child will develop confidence in you and that he can handle the separation.

Make new surroundings familiar

Whenever your child needs to be away from home, you may ask them to carry a familiar object with them. Before leaving them in a new setting such as preschool or babysitter, spend the time at a new place with your child until they feel safer and settled. It will also help inform the child care center or to whom you will leave your child with what you have been doing about his separation anxiety. So that they can also encourage and support your child.

Avoid scary television

Ensure that the television they are watching and the materials they are reading are appropriate for their age. Research has found that heavy television viewing for children is associated with anxiety, depression, and stress.

Be patient

It can be frustrating, but never criticize or get negative about how your child’s struggling with separation. Avoid saying, “Don’t be such a baby” or “You’re such a mommy’s girl.” Instead, boost her self-esteem by giving positive attention when they try to be brave while you’re away.

Introduce the concept of separation

You can read books or tell stories about separation fears. This can help your child feel that other children may feel the same way as him, and the fear of being away from his parents is normal but can be overcome.

What is Separation Anxiety for Children

What is Separation Anxiety Disorder in Children?

The usual separation anxiety gradually eases off as they reach preschool. If a child still gets upset about being separated, it’s possible that they got separation anxiety disorder? But do you call separation anxiety a disorder? It is when:

  • a child’s anxiety interferes with your life
  • compared to other children of the same age, your child has more severe
  • the child’s anxiety has gone on for at least four weeks

If you wonder if your child has a separation anxiety disorder, observe them when he dislikes being separated from you or when he worries about getting hurt. Also, watch out if he refuses to sleep in another place without you or complains about being sick during the separation.

What is Separation Anxiety for Children

Most Common Symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder in Children

Here are the symptoms to watch out for that indicate that a child has a separation anxiety disorder:

  • Afraid of being alone
  • Bed-wetting
  • Unrealistic worry that something negative will happen
  • Refusal to go to sleep without anyone nearby
  • Temper tantrums
  • Complains of physical symptoms, like stomachaches or headaches

What Causes Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) in Children?

Here are the possible causes of SAD:

  • Children with overprotective parents are more prone to separation anxiety disorder. If the parents are anxious, they can eventually feed this anxiety to the child too
  • Family members with anxiety and other mental disorders mean SAD runs through the genes. Thus, the child has a high risk of getting the disorder
  • A sudden change in the environment in a child’s life can also cause SAD
  • Stressful situations or traumatic events, such as the death of a pet or divorce, or the loss of a loved one, can trigger anxiety problems
  • When there is no emotional connection formed between infant and caretaker, it can lead to insecurities

How to Help a Child with Separation Anxiety Disorder?

You can help your children overcome separation by making them feel safer. Provide a comfortable environment at home instead of avoiding separation. Here are other ways on how to help a child with SAD:

  • Learn as much as possible about separation anxiety disorder. This way, you can easily sympathize with your child’s difficulties.
  • Listen to what your child says and does not say. Talk about the issues. No one can benefit from “Don’t think about it.”
  • As a parent, you also need to anticipate separation difficulty so when the time comes, you can be calm during the situation.
  • Encourage your child to join healthy and physical activities. Developing friendships can ease their anxiety.
  • Consider seeking professional help for separation anxiety disorder. You may consult your child’s pediatrician or your local health clinic.


Separation anxiety for children is a good sign that we have created a special bond and attachment with our children. But they also need our support to cope with the real-world step by step continuously. This time, our support means teaching them to stand on their own and let go.

Let’s share your experience coping with separation anxiety and how do you manage it? Tell us in the comment box below and we love to hear from you.

Related post “The importance of parental involvement in education“, “Emotion need of a baby

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