Chances are, you are reading this because you are a parent to a young child. As a parent, you are most likely familiar with what is known as ‘separation anxiety’, which is often what a child feels when he or she is separated from parents, siblings, or even caregivers. Separation anxiety is a normal developmental process that every child goes through, but if you are worried that there is more to your child’s anxiety, you can count on Laval psychologists to help you find out what’s going on.
Separation anxiety in kids usually begins around eight months, and can last up until your child is two or three. One of the reasons behind this is that for an infant, once you are out of sight, they think that they will not see you again. As they grow older, they learn that you may be gone from their sight, but that you will come back after some time. As a result, they become more comfortable with the idea of separation.
Separation Anxiety Disorder
It should be noted that separation anxiety is different from separation anxiety disorder (SAD). There are some kids who feel so overwhelmed with the thought of a loved one leaving them, that they do everything that they can to avoid separation. This is separation anxiety disorder.
The symptoms of separation anxiety disorder are often pretty severe, and if you worry that your child might have SAD, you should observe your child’s daily functioning for at least a month. If he starts missing school and other important activities that he used to love just to avoid separation, your child may have the disorder.
Unfortunately, studies show that children with SAD have a higher risk of developing a depressive disorder later in life. With that correlation, it is important for parents to be observant and to identify any signs and symptoms of both disorders for early diagnosis and early treatment.
Symptoms of SAD
A child with separation anxiety disorder has an underlying fear that he or his loved one, will be harmed or lost forever as a result of the separation. Aside from the fear, other symptoms also include:
- Persistent worrying about separation from parents
- Worrying about something bad happening to them or their parents, even when they are near
- Refusal to attend school for fear of being separated from parents
- Refusal to sleep alone
- Nightmares about separation
- Excessive worrying about being lost, kidnapped, or kept away from parents
- Complaints of physical pain once separated from parents.
If your child consistently demonstrates one or more of these symptoms, it could well be cause for concern and time for positive action.
SAD and Depression
A long term study of children with SAD showed that an estimated 75 percent of children with SAD developed depression when they grew older. The depression may not be caused by SAD alone, but the association between the two is substantial.
The two disorders may also share the same signs, which is why it is important for parents and specialists to watch out for any depressive symptoms being displayed by children with SAD.
How Parents Can Help Children with SAD
It is important to talk to your child and find out what they are scared of. Try to understand why they don’t want to leave you, and how they feel whenever you aren’t around.
If there is an upcoming event that would require you to be separated from each other, make sure that you prepare them for it. Explain what will happen, who will be there, how long you will be away, and how they can reach you just in case.
Aside from your love, support, and compassion, it is also important to consult with your child’s physician or psychologist so that you can get an expert advice on how to deal with your child’s condition more effectively.