What is separation anxiety?

When a child is taken to an unknown place or by an unknown person, the discomfort and anxiety they feel is called separation anxiety. The child feels abandoned his parents. The child feels that his parents won’t come back. This fear of losing their loved ones is termed as separation anxiety.

Generally, a child is usually too small to form opinion but they get this anxiety due to the trust they have formed towards their parents. Separation anxiety, arrives suddenly. A child who is usually very social enjoys meeting everyone one and plays with everyone may suddenly be hit by separation anxiety. One day the child becomes very cranky and not ready to let the parent out of sight.

Why does separation anxiety occur?

Separation anxiety is a phase every toddler passes through. It occurs at different times for different children. It happens generally around the time when a child is introduced to a school or play group or daycare, where they have to leave their comfort zone and go to an unknown environment.

My friend, Ruchita, used to worry a lot about her son. He loved going to school and never used to cry. Suddenly, after a year or more, he refused to go to school. He cried and whined. He didn’t want to go to school. My friend was worried. Then, she talked to her son and his teachers in school. She understood that her son was feeling little bored with the routine in school.

Then, she started educating him about the importance of going to school and routines. She had to stay strong and not melt at the sight of his tears. My friend continued sending him to school despite his tears. She stayed back in the school so that he could feel comforted. In few days, he adjusted and got over his anxiety.

How to get over separation anxiety?

A child needs counselling and lot of support of parents. Separation anxiety can be overcome only with the help of parents. Parents need to make the child understand that they will be there no matter what happens. They need to reassure them that they will be out for a small amount of time and they will soon be back.A child needs to grow and has to come out of their separation anxiety.

Try taking your child to public places, like a park, play areas and let the child explore alone. Observe but don’t help unnecessarily. Children have the capacity of learning and entertaining themselves with very little guidance. Keep yourself available but let your child spend time alone. Further, expose your child to strangers and unknown places.

I have met many moms who share their experience about separation anxiety and here is what they say.

Give  time

Let your child get used to a place and people. They need time to build their confidence around unknown people.

Talk to them

Educate your child about the new environment he/she is expected to be in. Don’t think they are too small to understand. They will understand.

Show Appreciation

Even a small amount of time the child is able to spend without you is an achievement. Offer appreciation.

Build trust

Your child will let you go once he/she trusts you will come back. It is their love for you. So maintain the trust.

Let your child enjoy

Don’t compare your child with others. Some children might get over separation anxiety immediately while  others might take more time. Every child has their own personality and response to situation. We need to appreciate and accept it.

Every child grows out of separation anxiety and yours will too. Just be patient and enjoy. Handle each situation, as and when, it arises. Remember, everything can be overcome by unconditional love. Likewise, separation anxiety too can be overcome with it. Just give your child some time. Have faith in yourself and your child.


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