Separation Anxiety

  • Does your child get highly upset whenever the two of you need to separate?

  • Do you find yourself constantly having to reassure your child that you are going to be alright?

  • Or do you find yourself constantly having to reassure your child that he or she is going to be alright?

  • Does your child's imagination "run away" with all the possible calamities that could happen when you are separated?

  • Do you feel smothered because your child shadows you around the house or needs to keep you in eye or earshot at all times?

  • Does your child opt out of activities that other children his or her age enjoy because you will not be there, such as sleepovers or camp?

  • Does your child fear sleeping alone or away from you?

  • Does your child become extremely worried or agitated if you are a little late in picking him or her up from school or another activity?

If you answered yes to one or more of the questions above, your child may be suffering from separation anxiety. 


Developmentally appropriate separation anxiety

Separation anxiety is something almost all children experience over the course of their development.  It's actually completely normal for a young child to experience it.  

Normal separation anxiety first shows up when your child is about eight or nine months old.  And this is because your child has reached an important developmental milestone.  

At this age, your child has finally gained the ability to think about you in your absence.  You and your child now share an invisible bond.  But, it also means that your child can now miss you when you are gone--or even just out of sight.  

Then later, between the ages of about eighteen and twenty-four months, your child can have an upsurge of separation anxiety.  

In fact, throughout the toddler years, separation anxiety can be developmentally appropriate. After all your child is completely reliant on you to meet all their needs. 

And even when your child gets older, it is still normal, at times, to experience periods of separation anxiety, such as when a new school year begins.  


when does developmentally normal separation anxiety cross the line and become something to be concerned about?

Like with all anxiety, it's a question of frequency, intensity, and duration...because it's healthy for children to have some apprehension about leaving their parent/s or caregiver.  This is an instinct that helps keep children safe and build family cohesion.  

But, do your child's feelings seem out of proportion for the situation or in comparison to his or her peers?  And is your child's separation anxiety  having a negative impact at home or at school

With reflection on these and the previous questions, you should have a clearer idea as to whether your child could use some extra support with their anxiety.


The Content Doesn't Matter

Above I have provided information about what is known as Separation Anxiety.  But, the type of anxiety that your child experiences is not what we will focus on in treatment

That's because anxiety operates the same way regardless of its diagnostic category.  These categories merely describe the type of things a person tends to worry about.    

So, focusing on the content of your child's worry is just not helpful.

What is helpful is to focus on how worry itself works and to teach your child a new way to respond to it. Your family and child will learn all about this concept in treatment.

Does that mean we're not going to address the separation difficulty?  Of course not!  But, we will do it in a way that can be generalized to any other worries that your child may have now or down the road. 

The great news is that once children understand how worry works, they will be equipped to manage worry, as its content shifts and changes as they grow.    


Helping Anxious Kids is here to support your family.  If you are seeking anxiety treatment for your child and my approach resonates with you, schedule an appointment today.