Preventing Separation Anxiety in Young Children – A Parents Role

Anxiety in children is a normal response to growing and learning. However, anxiety is considered a disorder when it is extreme, long-lasting, and debilitating. Several forms of anxiety can manifest. A child suffering from one form of anxiety is likely to also experience symptoms of another.

For example, a child experiencing separation anxiety may also suffer from social anxiety or panic disorder. Studies have shown that, a parent’s interaction with their infants is a factor in the development of an anxiety disorder. Timely, consistent care of an infant can prevent anxiety disorders. These disorders are typically long-lasting and follow a child into adolescence or adulthood.

Causes of Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a mood disorder manifested by an intense fear of being separated from one’s parent or primary caregiver. The cause is found to be both biological and cognitive. Nevertheless, caregiver’s actions can prevent the development of an anxiety disorder.

A parent who is unable to meet a child’s needs in a timely manner increases the chances of a child developing an anxiety disorder later in life.

Physical and Mental Symptoms of Childhood Anxiety

Symptoms of anxiety disorders are manifested both physically and mentally. It is important to know that someone suffering from any given disorder may not experience all of it’s symptoms. Physical symptoms include:

  • Rush of adrenaline,
  • Heart beating rapidly,
  • Dizziness,
  • Quick breathing,
  • Nausea,
  • Sweating,
  • Blushing, and
  • Increase in body temperature.

Mental symptoms of anxiety disorders can include:

  • Loss of self-worth,
  • Feelings of inadequacy,
  • Negative thoughts,
  • Forgetfulness,
  • Thoughts of harm to self or others, and
  • Trouble concentrating.

Preventing Separation Anxiety

According to Wendy K. Silverman and Philip D. A. Treffers, in the book, Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: research, assessment, and intervention, parents who were more or less attentive than needed were more likely to have children with a separation anxiety disorder. Therefore, preventing such disorders requires timely attention to the infant’s needs without excess coddling.

Caregivers should react to their children’s attention seeking efforts whether it be crying or cooing quickly enough to insure the child that they are safe. Excessive attention to an infant when they are upset will teach a child that they must be upset in order to insure the caregivers’ attention.