Is Separation Anxiety Always A Bad Thing
Im someone who has always felt sad about separation, which is probably why Ive always been particularly interested in the topic. As a young girl, I got homesick if I spent the night with my best friend. And sleep-away camp well, when my parents downsized years ago, my mom sent me a bunch of letters I had written to her over the years. Among them were letters I had written from camp, with little circles all over the page and the note, these circles are where my tears have fallen while Im writing to you.
For much of my life, I felt ashamed of this tendency to hurt over separation. Cultural and family beliefs suggested that I should be self-sufficient and independent, and not need other people to make me feel good or comfortable. My early days of training to be a psychotherapist reinforced this idea as I learned about separation-individuationthat is, the capacity to be an independent person separate from parents and family and other supports.
But these days we recognize that the capacity for attachment is as important as the ability to separate. We also understand that individuation itself occurs best in the context of attachment, what some theorists have called attachment-individuation.
Tips For Separation Anxiety In Babies
While your baby’s cries might tempt you to cancel your plans, giving in will only make matters worse the next time you need to leave. Here’s what you can do to comfort your child.
Practice separation: To make separation less of a shock, play peekaboo to reinforce the notion that youll always return. You can also send stuffed animals or dolls on little “journeys” and then reunite them with your child. Finally, try leaving him for a few short periods of timea half hour to an hourwith someone he knows and trusts. Once he sees that you always return , try out a babysitter.
Create a goodbye ritual: Routine is especially important for younger babies, notes Donna Holloran, owner of Babygroup, Inc. in Santa Monica, California. Try creating a goodbye ritual that will soothe both of you and prepare Baby for the separation. Sing a little song, give a hug and kiss, or wave to your little one right before you walk out the door. Find whatever works for you and stick to it.
Dont Leave Your Dog Home Alone During These Training Stages
One of the primary challenges in dealing with separation anxiety is that once the training process begins, your dog should never be left alone. Flores notes that even if you cant be home with your dog, you can enlist a neighbor, friend, family member, dog walker or daycare to help during the training process.
Managing absences is extremely important to protect the progress we are making during training. If for example, we get the dog to a point where he is comfortable for 30 mins, but the next day hes left alone for two hours, weve potentially undone all the work weve put in. Hes no longer able to trust that his guardian will return before he starts to panic, explains Flores.
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Addressing Separation Anxiety In Children
Stay Positive And Calm
The child you’re babysitting might be too young to understand words yet. But they still have a great instinct when it comes to reading the emotions of people around them. Any negativity or apprehension will be quite apparent to them.
Work with parents to make sure that you’re both being as cheerful and calm as possible when it’s time for the goodbyes. They might be a bit anxious about leaving their child alone with a babysitter for a few hours too, but they need to do their best not to let that show. Any apprehension will rub off on their kid and make the separation process harder.
Keeping a brave face on might be easier said than done, and some parents may not be able to leave their kid alone for the first time without breaking down in tears themselves. But if they’re able to avoid falling apart until after they close the door, it will make the process a lot easier on their kid, and much easier on you.
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Books On Separation Anxiety In Adults
- What are the three stages of separation anxiety
- How long should separation anxiety last
- Can mothers get separation anxiety
- What age does separation anxiety peak
- Is separation anxiety a mental illness
- How do you stop separation anxiety in adults
- How do you calm someone with separation anxiety
- Can you grow out of separation anxiety
- What is normal separation anxiety
- What is separation anxiety in relationships
- At what age does separation anxiety typically peak
- How long does separation anxiety last
- At what age is separation anxiety normal
- How Does Separation Anxiety Disorder Effect Adults?
- What is separation anxiety disorder in adults?
- What are the symptoms of separation anxiety?
- Why Does Separation Anxiety Disorder Occur?
- What causes separation anxiety in adults?
- How to Stop Adult Separation Anxiety
- What to Do If Your Dog Has Separation Anxiety
- Why Do Some Dogs Develop Separation Anxiety?
- How Separation Anxiety Manifests in Adults
- When to get help for separation anxiety
How Common Are Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental, emotional and behavioral problems affecting children. About 13 out of every 100 children ages 9 to 17 years old experience some kind of anxiety disorder, such as separation anxiety disorder. Approximately 4% of children suffer from separation anxiety disorder.
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Let Them Say Their Goodbyes
Always give kids a chance to interact with their parents when they’re heading out. Let their parents give them a hug and a quick goodbye, and then stand at the door with the child to wave bye-bye and blow kisses to them as they go.
Sometimes parents will try to sneak out without their kids noticing, in an attempt to lessen the impact. But letting parents sneak out will often make things way worse. Kids can be calmer in the short term while they don’t know, but as soon as they realize their parents are nowhere to be found, they’re prone to freak out.
You don’t want to set kids up with the idea that their parents can just disappear suddenly and without warning at any moment. It can lead to more anxiety in the future whenever their parents leave their sight.
Make The Sleep Environment Positive
How your child feels about their room can have a big impact on their ability to comfortably fall asleep without you. If you send them to their room as a punishment during the day or rarely spend time with them there, they may feel apprehensive about the space.
You can ensure your child has positive, affirming feelings about their room by playing with them regularly in the space. Stop using it for punishment so it feels like a safe space.
Keep the bed comfortable, make sure the room is dark and quiet, and play some soothing white noise to help them sleep.
You have a better chance of your child wanting to sleep there when you make it a positive environment.
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Other Behavior Problems To Rule Out
Sometimes its difficult to determine whether a dog has separation anxiety or not. Some common behavior problems can cause similar symptoms. Before concluding that your dog has separation anxiety, its important to rule out the following behavior problems:
Submissive or Excitement UrinationSome dogs may urinate during greetings, play, physical contact or when being reprimanded or punished. Such dogs tend to display submissive postures during interactions, such as holding the tail low, flattening the ears back against the head, crouching or rolling over and exposing the belly.
Incomplete House TrainingA dog who occasionally urinates in the house might not be completely house trained. His house training might have been inconsistent or it might have involved punishment that made him afraid to eliminate while his owner is watching or nearby.
Urine MarkingSome dogs urinate in the house because theyre scent marking. A dog scent marks by urinating small amounts on vertical surfaces. Most male dogs and some female dogs who scent mark raise a leg to urinate.
Juvenile DestructionMany young dogs engage in destructive chewing or digging while their guardians are home as well as when theyre away. Please see our articles, Destructive Chewing, for more information about these problems.
BoredomDogs need mental stimulation, and some dogs can be disruptive when left alone because theyre bored and looking for something to do. These dogs usually dont appear anxious.
How To Handle Separation Anxiety Disorder
Keep your goodbyes brief. Whenever you leave your kid, give her advance warning that a sitter will be arriving or that you’ll be dropping her off, and then keep your goodbye brief. “If you act anxious, or keep returning for another hug, she will think there is something to worry about,” says Vincent Barone, Ph.D., a child psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospitals & Clinics, in Kansas City, Missouri. Try to convey that the time apart is temporary and is not a cause for alarm.
Develop a ritual for leaving. It can help to develop a very brief routine for the process. You might say, “Mommy will be back to get you after work. I love you.” Then hug your child and leave. By keeping farewells the same each time, you create a familiar transition from being with you to being without you.
Prepare an activity. Ask your sitter or daycare teacher to have an activity ready as soon as you turn your child over. Getting her engaged in a clapping game or a new toy will take her mind off the fact that you’re leaving, notes Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution.
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How To Stop Adult Separation Anxiety
Because adult separation anxiety is only recently being recognized as a serious mental health problem, approaches to treatment are lacking. Yet there are some treatments that are thought to be potentially beneficial. If you believe you or someone you know has ASA, finding help is important. Once there is an awareness of the problem, identifying treatment is vital.
- Countering Other Anxiety Treating your anxiety symptoms can be very helpful. Many people with ASA display obsessive thoughts very similar to OCD, and some experience anxiety attacks when left alone. Recognizing the symptoms of other anxiety disorders can be extremely advantageous. Click here to start my anxiety test and see what you can treat
- Childhood Separation Procedures The same treatments that help children with separation anxiety may help adults as well. ASA can benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as systematic desensitization – learning to be alone in a way that is calming and better for mental health. Some medications may also be recommended, and relaxation strategies can be implemented as well.
- Support Groups Finding support can also be beneficial. Support groups for ASA may be a big help because it provides the person with additional social support beyond the person they’re connected to. Often one of the fears is losing that support so that a solid support group may be of assistance.
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Make Sure Everyone Is On The Same Page
Talk with your spouse about how to handle separation anxiety at bedtime and come up with a plan together. Make sure you stick to it. If even one parent wavers, your child may stay in this phase longer and struggle to get through it.
If your child spends the night with a grandparent or somewhere else without you, make sure every caregiver knows what to do and how to handle the situation. Your best bet is to avoid sleepovers during this phase, because being without you is already hard on your child.
However, if you already had plans, dont cancel them. Do everything you can to create consistency in the routine for your child.
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Professional Help For Separation Anxiety And Separation Anxiety Disorder
You know your child best. If youre worried about his separation anxiety, consider seeking professional help. Here are some places to start:
- your childs teacher at preschool or school, or a school counsellor
- your childs GP or paediatrician, who will be able to refer you to an appropriate mental health practitioner
- your local childrens health or community health centre
- a specialist anxiety clinic
- your local mental health service.
If your child is aged 5-8 years, she can talk with a Kids Helpline counsellor by calling 1800 551 800, or using the Kids Helpline email counselling service or the Kids Helpline web counselling service.
Distrust Starts Creeping In
One of the signs of separation anxiety in relationships is that you may begin to suspect your partner and even try to put them on a short leash, regardless of where they are and what they are up to.
If you find yourself always suspecting your partner when they arent with you, it could be a sign that separation anxiety may be a challenge.
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Dont Let Goodbyes Last Too Long
Giving parents and kids a chance to say their goodbyes is important. But once that happens and they start to leave, they shouldn’t drag it out or come back for more.
Parents will often feel bad when they leave and their child starts crying. So they’ll run back for another hug or kiss before they go. This only draws out the separation process longer and creates more stress for kids. Letting parents come back when their kid cries will encourage them to cry in order to get their parents to return or stay a little bit longer every time!
So, as hard as it is, talk about it beforehand with the parents and ask them not to come back once they walk away or close the door. Reassure them that you will handle the situation so their children won’t be crying very long because, within minutes, they will be involved in an activity and be too busy having fun.