How to reduce separation anxiety ?


Q: Hi doc, what are the tips for reducing ‘separation anxiety‘? Thank you! (Nik)


A:  Separation anxiety is part of a child’s normal development.  It may begin as early as 6-7 months, usually peaks about 12-18 months. This usually eases by 2 years of age.

Separation starts when the child is obtain ‘object permanence‘. This is when a child start to understands that things and people exists even when they are not present.

These are some suggestions that may be of help for parents to ease separation anxiety:

  1. Practice separation. Leave your child with a caregiver for brief periods and short distances at first.
  2. Schedule separations after naps or feedings. Babies are more susceptible to separation anxiety when they’re tired or hungry.
  3. Develop a “goodbye” ritual. Rituals are reassuring and can be as simple as a special wave through the window or a goodbye kiss.
  4. Keep familiar surroundings when possible and make new surroundings familiar. Have the sitter come to your house. When your child is away from home, let him or her bring a familiar object.
  5. Have a consistent primary caregiver. If you hire a caregiver, try to keep him or her on the job.
  6. Leave without fanfare. Tell your child you are leaving and that you will return, then go—don’t stall.
  7. Minimize scary television. Your child is less likely to be fearful if the shows you watch are not frightening.
  8. Try not to give in. Reassure your child that he or she will be just fine—setting limits will help the adjustment to separation.

Some children experience separation anxiety that just doesn’t go away, even with a parent’s best efforts.  They experience a continuation or reoccurrence of intense separation anxiety during elementary school years or beyond.  If the anxiety is so severe that interferes with normal activities like school and friendships, and last for months (rather than days), it may be a sign of an disorder.

In that case, you may want to seek professional consultation. Hope my answers are of help.

( answered by Dr Aileen Wee )


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