Human beings are born completely dependent on their parents. Unlike many other mammals, much of our brain development takes place outside the womb. A newly born foal can stand and walk within hours. A human baby takes years.
This dependence on parents or caregivers means that it is normal for a child to feel anxious when separated from the person or people responsible for his or her survival. This type of anxiety usually fades as the child grows, matures and becomes more self-sufficient. Every child is somewhat different and while there is no hard and fast rule, it’s generally agreed that if separation anxiety continues much beyond the age of five, then it’s very possible that your child may suffer from Separation Anxiety Disorder.
Separation Anxiety Disorder can adversely affect your child’s activities. It can lower school attendance and interfere with study. It can also contribute to depression, apathy, and cause your child to be withdrawn and apprehensive.
Separation Anxiety Disorder can also cause lack of sleep, and such physical problems as dizziness, stomach aches and racing heartbeat. It can even lead to panic attacks.
Clinging, crying and tantrums characterize separation anxiety in younger children when either experiencing or anticipating separation.
Older children with Separation Anxiety Disorder may exhibit an unwillingness to visit friends that they know well, to go out by themselves or to attend school or a social function without a parent present. However, this disorder is far more common in young children than in older children. It must be remembered that the foundation of Separation Anxiety Disorder is the attempt to stop something bad from happening. The young person is frightened that the absence of a person who is a stable point in life will result in something bad happening. This something bad could be the death of the loved one, something unacceptable happening to the child that the loved one isn’t there to prevent or simply that the loved one will never comes back. This is why older children mostly exhibit separation anxiety after a traumatic event, such as a divorce or the death of a parent.
There are a number of ways to assist your child to handle separation anxiety. It is important to talk to your child about her feelings and to show understanding and empathy. They need to know that their feelings are normal and that a parent knows how to help them. Then you can teach them some relaxation techniques to be used when they feel anxious. Together with the child you can create a plan of conquering their fears in a gradual manner. Making a child an active participant in this process is very important.. Remember that you should reward your child when he or she faces a fear. And you should never isolate them further from you by simply telling them to “grow up” and then turning and walking away. It only makes them feel more alone and fearful of abandonment.