What is separation anxiety in children of 2.5 years?
Separating oneself from close ones for any human has never been an easy task. This seems to be even more difficult among young children of age 3 and below. It’s considered natural for any child to feel uncomfortable when their parent or caregiver says goodbye. The anxiety experienced by a child upon distancing oneself from a closed one due to the fear of not being reunited with them again results in separation anxiety.
What are the symptoms of separation anxiety in children?
The most prominent and significant symptom of separation anxiety is the constant worry about being separated from their family members or their loved ones. These feelings are usually very overwhelming for children as young as 2.5 years.
Along with this, the other symptoms that a child might experience upon separation are:
Fear about something terrible happening to a loved one
Another common symptom that a child experience is a worry that someone or something will harm their loved ones when they are away from the child.
Fear of permanent separation
Something that makes the separation more uncomfortable for those children experiencing separation anxiety is the feeling that the temporary separation might lead to a permanent one.
Refusal to leave home or go to school
Children with separation anxiety may come up with an irrational or unacceptable reason for avoiding school. This is usually done due to the fear of staying away from their parents. Children might not just refuse but also come up with non-existent issues such as complaining of headache, stomachache, or even display temper tantrums.
Clinging onto the caregiver
Another very important manifestation of separation anxiety in children as young as 2.5years old is their need to shadow their parents around the house and in other environments where they are seen holding their parents’ arms or legs constantly.
What are the common causes of separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety in children of 2.5 years roots from the feelings of being unsafe and unprotected in some way. If a parent is able to understand the main cause for a child to feel this way it becomes much more helpful for the parent to help their child with their struggles.
Some of the common cause known for separation anxiety in children may include :
Change in environment
Many children do not like sudden changes in their environment or surroundings such as a new school new neighborhood new house or even a new caregiver . These sudden changes might lead to separation anxiety.
Stressful situations like illness in the family, death of a close one, strained relationships, or divorce among the parents can also be a sole reason for triggering separation anxiety.
Every human long for an emotional bond with another. When an infant is not able to form this favorable and strong bond with their primary caretaker, they do not feel secure, affectionate, or understood which is in turn required for the healthy development of a child.
Insecure or unfavorable attachments with the caregiver during early developmental periods may lead to problems of separation anxiety.
Over controlling or overprotective parenting style
Separation anxiety can be manifested in children with over-controlling or overprotective parents. Parents and children can feed on another’s anxiety in such kind of relationships.
How to ease separation anxiety among children?
To help children, stay away from their parents comfortably without feeling anxious it is best to inculcate a factor of separation for small periods of time. This brief period of time can gradually be increased for longer periods and also longer distances once the child starts to get comfortable.
Periods of separation after feeding and bedtime
Children as young as 2.5 years are more likely to develop separation anxiety when they are hungry or tired. After the child is given their basic requirements like food and sleep it is best to schedule a period of separation.
Follow a goodbye ritual
Children may also experience an amount of separation anxiety due to insufficient reassurance from their parents. This issue can be managed by following some small steps like carrying out a goodbye ritual where the parents provides the child with a simple goodbye wave or a goodbye this is more effective when the ritual is kept short and quick.
Don’t make a big deal about leaving
Another way to help children with separation anxiety is to make them feel comfortable with the very idea of the parent leaving a shared space. This can be done by leaving a space without making a big deal about the departure and making it look and sound normal and easy.
Stay put on your promises
In order to help a child, feel more confident about being in an environment without their parents’ presence it is important for the parents to stay put on their promise and return to the child at a time promised to them before leaving.
Reassure the child
Reassurance is found to be very helpful in many situations reassuring the child that they will be just fine by themselves time and over helps the child to adjust to the separation.
Tips to help your child feel safe and secure
- Providing the child with a routine creates a sense of security and eliminates the fear of uncertainty. Consistency with regard to daily functioning such as mealtime, bedtime, and the following necessary essentials might be beneficial for the child.
- It is best to let the child know that they are being understood in terms of their feelings and behaviors however making it clear for them that there are certain set rules that they have to follow. Setting a routine and enforcing limits helps a child know what they can expect from any given situation.
- When a child is given some control in the interaction with another family member, they might feel a sense of autonomy and safety which in turn makes them comfortable.
When to seek professional help?
- In severe cases, children with separation anxiety might require professional assistance along with the help provided by their parents.
In order to decide if a child requires such type of assistance the parents can keep a lookout for these indications:
- Inappropriate tantrums or clinginess with regard to their age
- Refusal to interact with friends and family
- Displaying irrational levels of fear
- Refusal to go to school or bed alone
- Irrational and persistent fear of leaving the house.
Separation anxiety does not develop overnight the cause for a child to feel overly anxious upon separation might have something to do with a negative or a traumatic experience. By understanding what is causing the child so much stress one can help the child benefit from the most suitable treatment.
It is very obvious that no parent would like to see their child under stress. Rather than trying to avoid separation from the child, it is best to help the child deal with separation using favorable methods to make them feel safer in their surrounding.
For a child who feels left alone or isolated making an effort to listen to them may have a long-lasting therapeutic effect. It is always better to encourage the child to talk about their feelings openly without filtering them out. This would also require the parents to be equally empathetic towards the child and avoid judgments.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
How do you help a child with separation anxiety?
Some ways to help children with separation anxiety are:
- To practice healthy separation from the primary caregivers time and again
- Scheduling separations after feedings and nap time
- Making children used to a quick goodbye system
- Make sure that you keep up with your promises
- Helping children get familiar with various surroundings.
What are the common symptoms of separation anxiety in children?
The common symptoms of separation anxiety usually seen in children are the constant worry that something unfavorable will happen, such as being kidnapped or getting lost resulting in separation from the primary caregivers or other loved ones.
Due to this constant worry, the children usually refuse to go away from home. They also do not wish to be left alone at home without a member or a loved one in the house
At what age is separation anxiety normal?
Separation anxiety can be seen among children as young as 1 1/2 and 3 years old. In order to be diagnosed with separation anxiety disorder, the symptoms of separation anxiety must be present for at least four weeks.
How long does separation anxiety last?
Normally separation anxiety is seen fading away by the end of two years of age with its peak between 10 to 18 months.
Why does my child cry over everything?
Children may cry for various reasons such as hunger, pain,No or discomfort. However, sometimes the child may also be crying constantly because of the lack of affection.
Considering the inability to express themselves at a young age it becomes difficult for the parents to understand this very need of the child.
What helps with night separation anxiety?
Some ways to manage separation anxiety during the night are:
- Consistency with sleep routine where the children are accustomed to it
- Wish the child goodnight or goodbye when you leave the room.
- If the child requires some extra support during bedtime, it is alright to provide them with this support however one should be careful about introducing any new habits into the normal routine.