Helene Goldnadel on Dealing with Child Separation Anxiety

Saying goodbye can be a hard thing for anyone to do, especially a small child. Infants learn at a young age to depend on their caregiver to provide them with everything they need, so what happens when that caregiver leaves? Here Helene Goldnadel is going to talk about child separation anxiety, the causes, and explain how to help a child who is having trouble with separation.


Child separation anxiety is defined as distress or agitation resulting from separation or fear of separation from a parent or caregiver to whom a child is attached to. It can start around 7 months of age, peaks at around 18 months, and can continue until around the age of 3. Many parents are familiar with the screaming toddler who will not let them walk out the door, crying and screaming and begging them not to leave. Although this causes many parents stress and guilt, it is just a normal part of child development. This does not mean you are a bad parent. In fact it means the opposite. It means that you and your child have formed a loving bond and attachment that your child values.


One day your child is fine with you leaving and the next day it seems like you can not get anything done with out them clinging to your leg, so what causes child separation anxiety? It is thought to develop because as babies mature they start to grow attached to a caregiver or parent and realize they are important to them, but they lack the understanding that things that are not visible still exist. This is called object permanence. The infant believes that when a parent leaves they are gone for good and fear they will not return. This causes them much distress and anxiety (aka child separation anxiety) and results in crying and emotional outbursts.


There are many things a parent can do to help a with child separation anxiety. Routine is very important. The child needs to feel safe and know what to expect. Having a predictable routine will help eliminate some anxiety. Your goodbye routine is also important. Let your child know when you are leaving and that you will return. Make sure to be understanding of their fears but also be reassuring. If you show your child that their tears bother you, they will feed off of that and continue to be upset. You may want to have a special way to say your good-byes. I have seen parents that will come to the outside window and wave good-bye. My son and I would say “I Love You” in sign language when I was leaving. Most important, is to give your child time. When they realize they are safe and that you will return, the child separation anxiety will subside along with the tears.


When dealing with child separation anxiety it is important to remember that every child is different and will handle things in a different way. Helene Goldnadel is of the views that by understanding what child separation anxiety are and what causes it, you will be able to find ways that will help your child feel comfortable in their environment and cope with their fears and anxieties.


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