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This Month In Health
  • Health Numbers that Matter
    You know your phone number and bank account, but do you know the six numbers that equal good health? At your next check-up, ask your doctor to measure these six indicators of good health and know how your numbers stack up. Read >>
  • Sugar’s Aftermath
    Despite sugar being everywhere, you probably hear all the time that you should cut back on the amount of sugar you consume. But do you know why you should cut the sweet from your routine? Read >>
  • A Sleep Solution?
    There are few things more frustrating than elusive sleep. Maybe you’ve limited late night screen time, taken hot baths, or cut back on caffeine with no luck—until you tried melatonin. But is it safe? Read >>
  • Mommy, Don’t Leave Me!
    You leave baby with a loving, caring babysitter, and as soon as you’re out of sight, baby starts crying. Why? Separation anxiety. Knowing what to expect with this type of anxiety and how to cope will help parents and children get through this upsetting phase of life. Read >>
Health and Fitness News

Mommy, Don’t Leave Me!

Separation anxiety may be frustrating, but it’s a normal part of a child’s early development.

You leave baby with a loving, caring babysitter, and as soon as you’re out of sight, baby starts crying. Why? Separation anxiety typically begins around 8 months of age and resolves around age 2, though some children go through the phase later or skip it altogether. At a young age, separation anxiety is an expected part of a child’s development. Sometimes, however, separation anxiety continues as a child ages or sets in during the school years. When this happens, a child may have separation anxiety disorder.

Knowing what to expect with this type of anxiety and how to cope will help parents and children get through this upsetting phase of life.

At a Young Age

Around 6 months of age, babies begin to learn what’s called object permanence, but they’re not sure how it works. Object permanence is the idea that people and objects continue existing, even when out of sight. Since babies don’t understand time, they don’t know that mom and dad will return. So when you leave the room for just 30 seconds, your baby cries, becomes extra clingy, or resists affection. What would you do if your loved ones suddenly left and you were unsure you’d ever see them again?

This phase usually lasts a few months, but can persist longer depending on the parents’ reaction or the child’s temperament.

How to Cope

Parents may be thankful their child feels attached to them, but they may also feel guilty and overwhelmed when they have to leave their child with another caregiver. Don’t worry—this phase will pass. In the meantime, children get the chance to learn some independence and problem-solving skills.

To make times of separation less traumatic, plan to leave when your child is rested and fed, not cranky and hungry. Take plenty of time to introduce your child to a new caregiver. Reassure your child with affection and remind your child you’ll be back “after lunch” or “after nap time.” Then, return when you said you would. Children pick up on parental anxiety, so remain calm through the goodbyes. Sneaking away while a child is distracted may only backfire the next time you have to leave.

In Older Children

When separation anxiety continues or returns later in childhood, a child may have separation anxiety disorder. With this condition, a child may experience unrealistic, intense fears when parting with their parents. They may believe something bad will happen when their parents are absence.

As a result, the child may refuse to go to school, not want to sleep alone or go to sleepovers, throw temper tantrums, or have nightmares. A child may have panic attacks or develop physical symptoms such as stomachaches or headaches. To be diagnosed as a disorder, the anxiety must persist for more than a month and interfere with normal life.

Kids are more likely to deal with separation anxiety after they’ve experienced a major loss in life, such as the death of a loved one or pet, parents’ divorce, or a change of schools. Children with overprotective or overinvolved parents are also at a greater risk.

How to Treat

Short-lived, mild cases of separation anxiety in older children usually resolve on their own over time. The child learns to trust their parents and gains security in being apart. In severe cases or when the anxiety interferes with school attendance, treatment may be necessary.

Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is the go-to treatment for separation anxiety. A therapist will help the child learn how to manage and face their fears. In some cases, anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications may be used in conjunction with therapy to treat severe anxiety.

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