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Helping Your Child Navigate Separation Anxiety

Updated: Apr 18

Separation anxiety


Hey there, fellow parents! Let's talk about something that probably hits close to home for many of us: separation anxiety. If you've ever experienced your child clinging to you like a koala bear at drop-off time or shedding tears like it's the end of the world when you try to leave, you're not alone. Separation anxiety is a common hurdle in childhood, but understanding it and knowing how to tackle it can make all the difference.

What Exactly is Separation Anxiety?

Simply put, separation anxiety is when your little one gets all jittery and upset about being separated from you or other familiar faces. It's like a mini emotional tornado that hits when you're about to part ways – be it for school, or even a short trip to the grocery store. And let's face it, it's tough on both kiddos and parents.

How Does Separation Anxiety Rear Its Head?

Now, you might wonder why your child turns into a Velcro ninja every time separation looms. Well, there are a few reasons:

  1. Growing Pains: Your little champ is going through a lot of changes, both physically and emotionally. Separation anxiety is just one of those growing pains.

  2. Comfort Zone Blues: Your child feels safest with you and other familiar faces. So, when separation threatens to yank them out of their comfort zone, it's no wonder they get all jittery.

  3. Fear of the Unknown: Anything new can be scary for kids. So, if they're facing a new environment or situation, separation anxiety might rear its head.

  4. Past Experiences: Sometimes, past experiences – This could be a lack of opportunities to separate from their parent. Alternatively this could be a sudden separation or a scary incident – can fuel separation anxiety.

How Can We Help? Enter CBT!

Alright, now for the good stuff: how to kick separation anxiety to the curb! Cue Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Here's how it can be a game-changer:

  1. Understand and Tackle Anxiety: CBT helps your child understand what's going on in their head when anxiety hits. By recognizing the signs and understanding why they feel the way they do, they're better equipped to tackle it head-on.

  2. Swap Out Negative Thoughts: CBT teaches your child to spot those sneaky negative thoughts that fuel anxiety and replace them with positive ones. It's like swapping out a grumpy cloud for a shiny rainbow.

  3. Face Those Fears: With CBT, your child can gradually face their fears in a safe and supportive environment. It's all about taking baby steps – from short separations to longer ones – until they realize they've got this.

  4. Equip Them with Coping Skills: Think of CBT as a toolbox filled with handy coping skills. Deep breathing, relaxation techniques, and positive self-talk are just a few tools your child can use to keep anxiety at bay.

  5. Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: And of course, you're not alone in this journey. CBT often involves parents too, giving you the tools and strategies to support your child every step of the way.

Wrapping Up

So, there you have it, folks – a crash course in separation anxiety and how CBT can be the superhero your child needs to conquer it. Remember, every kiddo is different, so what works for one may not work for another. But with patience, understanding, and a sprinkle of CBT magic, you and your child can navigate through separation anxiety like pros. You've got this, parents!

By Ben Lea, CBT Therapist, EMDR Therapist & RMN.

Congleton, Cheshire.

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