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Separation Anxiety In Children

QUESTION: What kind of help is available in addressing the subject of separation anxiety in children?

ANSWER:

Separation anxiety in children may be a normal response to developing a strong bond with parents. If this is the case, the problem will resolve itself with time and parental support. Talking with a family physician or pediatrician is frequently a good first step. This will help you determine whether you are dealing with normal separation anxiety in children that need not be cause for undue alarm; or that a greater risk may exist for a more serious form of separation anxiety known as Separation Anxiety Disorder.

Helping professionals such as licensed counselors and clinical social workers are trained to assess the potential for separation anxiety in children. They can also provide excellent resources for behavioral strategies for the child as well as education for parents. Smaller children respond well to play therapy while the older child may benefit from a combination of cognitive and behavioral strategies. A small percentage of children will be negatively impacted by separation anxiety in childhood to such a degree that medication may be recommended for treatment of the disorder. As a parent, there are a number of things that you can do address the symptoms of separation anxiety in children. Listen to your child's fears and let your child know that you take his or her feelings seriously. Do not, however, be overly dramatic.
  • Begin by leaving your child for very brief periods of time with a trusted caregiver, perhaps someone who the child already knows.
  • Walk around the room and talk with your child about what he or she will do while you are gone. Comment on toys that will be fun to play with, etc.
  • Stay with your child while he or she establishes a rapport with the caregiver.
  • Be kind, but firm. In most cases, a parent who demonstrates that he or she can be manipulated into not leaving the child is only making the next separation more difficult.
  • Ask your librarian or pediatrician to recommend a fiction story book that deals with the subject matter of separation anxiety in children. Read the story with your child and talk about its significance in their own life.
  • Remember that taking the time to listen and offer support, not criticism, will help your child toward becoming the person that God intended for him or her to be. The Psalmist David wrote these words for parents, in the book of Proverbs: "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it" (Proverbs 22:6).
Parents, who sought the help of a professional counselor in dealing with separation anxiety in children, share this about the experience:

"Our minister recommended something called 'faith counseling' to help us with our daughter's Separation Anxiety Disorder. The counselor helped Savannah face her fears and take real steps toward overcoming them. Today, our child no longer suffers from Separation Anxiety Disorder. In the process, our whole family has come to know the One who is able to take away all our fears, the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18)."

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