Does your child end up in tears and tantrums even if you have just left him to go to the toilet? Does he find it unbearable to be away from you even if you are only in the next room? It may be then, that your child is not ‘just’ a clingy child. He could be suffering from Separation Anxiety Disorder. Separation anxiety is found in almost all toddlers, but if it continues past age five, it could cause severe parenting concerns.
When does separation anxiety develop and how children manifest it
When children are very young, like four to six months old, they adapt to anybody as long as they are fed well, get sufficient sleep and have no health issues. When they start realizing that someone is around all the time, and that someone is the same person every day, they start developing anxiety about separation from that person. It could be mom, daddy, granny, or even nanny. When that person tries to leave, the child may show signs of agitation. You may find the child crying or clinging to you.
The child may exhibit separation anxiety during occasions which are stressful for him, like moving to a new place, having a new sibling, severe illness of the child or the caregiver, starting school or a tense atmosphere at home. The child may not just cry and shed tears but also refuse to eat or go to school or even sleep. In such circumstances, you could start having doubts about your parenting. But you can deal with this problem with some patience.
Helping your child in dealing with separation anxiety
The child feels separation anxiety because he feels that you will never come back. You may add your bit to the tears by lingering around and rushing back to the child as soon as he lets out as much as a wail. You have to make sure that your goodbye routine is pleasant for the child, like a warm hug or a kiss on the cheeks, with smiles from you. Don’t make the routine a long drawn-out affair. More importantly, never leave without letting your child know about it. Your child may feel that you may disappear any time and will not let you leave at all.
You also need to talk to your child about it. Assure your child that you will come back in simple terms like maybe after he has had lunch and taken his nap. You can observe your child from a distance without letting him be aware of it. You will find him getting busy pretty soon. You could also try leaving his favorite cuddly toy or fluffy rug with him for that comforting feeling.
Separation Anxiety is a developmental stage and almost all children go through it, making this a common parenting issue. If you have extended family around, you could enlist their help in creating a positive, caring environment for the child where he feels safe and happy even when you are not around.