OVERCOMING SEPARATION ANXIETY IN CHILDREN: When a child reaches the age of two or three, parents start thinking about sending their children to kindergarten to develop their independence.
But can your little one handle these physical, emotional, and social changes?
“The most important thing parents can teach their children is how to get by without them.”
Frank A. Clark (lawyer and politician)
Clinginess or “separation anxiety” is common in young children between the ages of 6 months and three years. They find it difficult to separate from their parents or caregivers and tend to seek comfort in the only way they know how: by crying. According to Professor Douglas K. Symons of the Department of Psychology at the University of Acadia, children typically go through three stages of separation anxiety. These stages are protest, despair and separation.
In the initial stage of protest, the parent would experience mostly resistance such as crying, throwing tantrums and looking for a caregiver. The length and intensity of each reaction often depends on the temperament of the child and the reaction of the parent. However, it is a natural part of every child’s developmental process and indicates healthy progress in a child’s cognitive improvement.
Preschools for younger children often focus on developing a child’s cognitive and social development and interacting with other adults and peers. It is beneficial for children to start preschool earlier, get used to new social areas and become more independent. Therefore, going to kindergarten earlier is one way to reduce separation anxiety.
Here are some other methods and tips to manage and reduce the effects of separation anxiety.
Imagine an idea
Children are just as careful as any adult. Venturing into the unknown can be scary, especially at an age when children are just starting to explore the world and are highly dependent on a parent or caregiver. Make it easy for your child by talking to them about it first and getting them excited about this new adventure. “You’ve grown so much, it’s time to go to kindergarten!” or “You can bring your own bag to school!”. Once the idea has been introduced, it takes getting used to it.
Routines are regular tasks or processes that are performed at a specific time. Introducing a routine to a child early in their growth and development process helps them understand that certain activities and tasks need to be done or happen at specific times. For example, lunch and sleep! And once they get the hang of a set routine, parents can introduce preschool as another fun activity to incorporate into their routine!
Spend some time away from your parents
You can reduce separation anxiety in your child at any time. For example, taking the child on dates in the park with relatives or even mutual friends who have children of a similar age. Another good idea is to let the child spend a night or two with a trusted relative, even if it is for a short time. These periods when the parent is not in sight help the child to ease into the time spent away from the parent and it is no longer as daunting because “Mom” and “Dad” will eventually return at the appointed time.
Instilling certain habits requires persistence and consistency. Once the routine is disrupted, the child may begin to believe that it is okay to skip parts of their routine, such as school, from time to time. Continue to plan sleepovers and play dates as this also develops their social skills before they mingle with other preschoolers.
Practice, patience and perseverance
The learning process requires constant practice and repetition. Through repetition, a consciously learned skill becomes embedded in the subconscious! As with children, remember to practice, practice, practice the routine often. The goal is to get the child comfortable among new people and other children.
Separation anxiety can be common, but it can generally be managed with some of our tips above. However, severe cases of anxiety should be referred to a pediatric specialist.
OVERCOMING SEPARATION ANXIETY IN CHILDREN