Does Your Child Have Separation Anxiety?



Common Indicators of Separation Anxiety (SAD):

  • School Refusal
  • School Tardiness
  • Somatic Complaints (headaches, stomach aches, nausea. . .) with no medical cause
  • Irritability and Restlessness
  • Refusal to Eat at School
  • Excessive need for Reassurance
  • Symptoms are alleviated by phone calls home or by leaving school

Parents can Help!

  • As difficult as it may be, try not to reassure more than once or twice.
  • Build confidence daily by creating opportunities for self-mastery through practice, repetition, and praise.
  • If your child complains of physical symptoms, check out symptoms with your pediatrician.  If there are no medical reasons for symptoms, SEND YOUR CHILD TO SCHOOL!  You need to approach, not avoid anxiety.
  • Model healthy coping skills- deep breathing, positive self-talk, rewarding self for getting through a tough time.
  • Limit check in calls or visits to school.
  • Have Weekly Alone Time Together (W.A.T.T.). Spending this time with your child strengthens their trust in you and in themselves.  You are strengthening your bond with your child, and modeling that there is a time for everything; there is a time for play, for school, for being together. . .
  • Create space between you and your child with increasing lengths of time.
  • Use a reward system.  Create an “I CAN DO IT” TREASURE BOX. Provide daily tickets for goal attainment and a small reward.  Accumulate 5 tickets and get a bigger reward.
  • Read the book, The Invisible String, by: Patrice Karst.  Provide your child with a heart bracelet as a transitional object that reminds him/her that your hearts are always together even when you are in two different places.
  • Discuss Feelings daily.  Help child identify what they are feeling, what physical sensations they have with that particular feeling, and what thoughts they have about it.
  • Limit the reinforcing activities at home.  No TV, games, fun things if you stay home!
  • Help your child create a story about Anxieties.  Change the end of the story to make it a success story- the child conquering anxiety. Try the following websites and Apps:

Feeling  Electric (I –device Application)

  • Use a Parent/Teacher log to communicate struggles and successes during the day.
  • Remember that some things make kids more vulnerable to anxiety.  For example, hunger, exhaustion, unresolved anger, and loneliness can all make separation anxiety worse.
  • Lastly, ACT, DO NOT REACT.  Try to be mindful of your responses.  Keep your anxiety in check!

© Julie Discenza, M.S. 2014


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