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  • Writer's pictureMonique Johnson

Is My Child Just Afraid? Or is it SEPARATION ANXIETY?

School is in session and your child appears to cling to your leg when it’s time to enter the classroom. Your child is terrified and will not stop crying unless you stay with them throughout the day. You decide that it’s okay, let’s try again tomorrow. The next day arrives and they will not get out of bed or leave the house because they know that you are dropping them off to school. These can be super tough situations especially for parents/guardians that work the morning shifts. Your child may be struggling with separation anxiety. There are a variety of levels of separation anxiety—Extreme in certain cases, which could lead to a diagnosis, or on the less intense side which is certainly more manageable.

According to, anxiety disorders are a very common mental health concern in the Unites States. There are a variety of anxiety diagnoses such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Separation Anxiety Disorder, etc. Many children experience separation anxiety in an early stage of development. This anxiety should subside as the child reaches their fourth birthday. Unfortunately, this does not always occur. Some children can continue to struggle throughout their childhood and into adolescence. This anxiety becomes a major concern when it interferes with daily life activities such as going to school, making friends, or remaining in environments without their parents. If the anxiety is super intense and lasts for months at a time, then it could be separation anxiety disorder.

Separation Anxiety for Younger Children

Separation anxiety should not last past four years old, but sometimes it continues. It could be that your child refuses to go to child care or school. They may hide in different places at home to keep from going to school. They may get physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches because they are so anxious. Your child could be worried that something bad is going to happen to you after you leave them. They may ask tons of questions to gain understanding and clarity because they are super anxious of the unknown. This anxiety can look different for each child, but it is super important to be able to recognize the signs.

Separation Anxiety for Older Children

Some of the signs in children are similar to the reactions in older children. Older children may also refuse to go to school or stay home from school during the week. They may send tons of messages and phone calls to their parent/guardian throughout the day and panic if they do not get a response. Older children are likely to have nightmares about being separated from their caregiver and may have difficulty sleeping at night. Refusal to sleep over at anyone’s home without you could also be another sign of separation anxiety. They may perhaps skip out on activities like sports or clubs because of their fear of being separated from their caregiver.

These are just a few to name, so pay attention to your child’s behavior. The good thing is that there are some methods to help your child get through this!

Ways to assist with Separation Anxiety:

• Allow your child to choose a transitional object that will help them to be calm and feel safe

• Implement a schedule/routine

• Inform your child that you are leaving and the time that you will be back to pick them up

• Practice small goodbyes

• Build your child up with positivity

• Have consistent people in your child’s care and environment

• Create a ritual for goodbyes

• When making a promise, keep it

• Write them a fun note that they can find in their book bag or lunchbox

So, the Separation Anxiety just won’t leave…

You are the expert of your child. If you try all of these methods, your child gets older and they are still struggling with separation anxiety, then you should seek professional help. A professional can help support you through this, and assist your child with their anxiety. Always remember that therapy is great for everyone!


Anxiety Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2021, from

For more information on separation anxiety check out these links:

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