ANXIETY IN CHILDREN: CAUSES, SIGNS & HOW TO HANDLE IT
Mother, Baby & Child|September 2021
This term sees the highest percentage of children going back to school classes since the pandemic began. Many younger ones will experience ‘separation anxiety’, as will some parents. Either way, this kind of anxiety is a health issue more than a school issue, so let’s delve into the topic!

At the best of times, children have never relished going back to school at the end of the summer break, but with their educational routines firmly rooted to being home-based and around a parent, many will experience anxiety being separated from their parents as they return to the classroom.

Having spent more than a year being discouraged from having contact with others, the idea of a baby/toddler now leaving you and going to nursery care, or an older child going into a classroom with other children is daunting. As a parent, how do you know whether this is normal nervousness about going to school after a break, or something more serious?

SEPARATION ANXIETY IN BABIES

At around seven months of age, you’ll commonly see separation anxiety in babies - they become panicked, cry and become distressed when their mother (or primary carer) walks away from them or leaves the room. In just an instant, they miss your presence, your familiarity, and the security and comfort of you being with them. Because babies and very young children do not have a sense of time, they don’t understand that you may only be gone for a matter of minutes all they really know is that you are leaving them, and this is distressing.

Handling separation anxiety in babies

Get your child accustomed to separation gradually by playing games such as peek-a-boo, which teaches them that you’ll always be back after you’re out of their sight. You can also introduce them to spending small, but increasing amounts of time with other people (such as family, grandparents or trusted friends) who can feed and change them; read to and play with your child - make sure this time is fun! By making these small doses of separation more normal in your baby’s life, they grow in confidence that you haven’t abandoned them.

Dropping your child off at nursery

When it’s time to drop your child off at their nursery or daycare, childcare experts recommend that you keep your ‘goodbye’ brief, affectionate, and with a clear statement that you will be back. They advise that you don’t drag out the process of leaving because this can make the experience more upsetting for a young child.

It is also important not to sneak away without saying goodbye, as your child might feel that they can’t trust you. Finally, it’s a helpful comfort to your child to bring their favourite stuffed animal, blanket, or other comforting object to the nursery with them.

SEPARATION ANXIETY IN TODDLERS

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