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At What Age Does Separation Anxiety Usually Peak In Children?

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Written by Dr. Dustin Miller on May 17, 2021

We understand that leaving your child at home or at daycare is never easy, especially when your child starts to respond to this separation by crying, screaming, and clinging to you. Even though this can be alarming and upsetting, it is a normal part of development and is a sign that your child has a strong sense of security when around you.

That being said, if your child is starting to show signs of separation anxiety, gaining a better understanding of why this happens and how you can help will allow you to lessen the severity of the situation, making both you and your child happy. Let’s get into it!

When Does Separation Anxiety Generally Start?

Separation anxiety tends to show up and reach its peak at different stages for different age groups. So, let’s take a closer look.

Infants

For infants, separation anxiety may begin at around 4 to 5 months but usually hits its peak at 9 months. This all stems back to the concept of object permanence, as this is the age when your child begins to understand this, and when you leave, it results in them feeling unsettled.

Toddlers

Toddlers may actually skip the separation anxiety phase of infancy and instead start to experience it at around 15 to 18 months old. Keep in mind that much of toddlerhood consists of feelings of hunger, tiredness, or, unfortunately, illness, and all of these feelings can make the separation even more difficult.

Children also start to develop independence during toddlerhood, which may result in them being more aware of the separation. Often, toddlers struggling with separation will be loud and proud in showing their unhappiness.

Preschoolers

Preschool children are around 3 years of age, and by this point in time, children have a better understanding of the way that their responses and reactions impact us as parents. This means that they are aware that if they cry or exhibit other signs of sadness, you will probably come to comfort them.

Going off of this, if you have a preschool-age child who is struggling with separation anxiety, it is best not to give in to their pleas, as they will start to realize that crying will be a guarantee to make you come back.

How Long Does Separation Anxiety Last?

Separation anxiety is temporary, but can actually last through the years of elementary school for some children. The duration of the anxiety really depends on each specific situation and includes factors like the way that parents respond, the severity of the child’s reactions, and the frequency of separation.

That said, any separation anxiety that continues to affect the daily activities of an older child may be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

How Do I Know If It is a Bigger Issue?

Though parents are often asssured that separation anxiety is just a phase and that it will come to an end, there is always a possibility of a bigger issue being at play. When it comes to this, it is important to trust your instincts as a parent.

Intense separation anxiety that lasts through preschool, elementary school, or beyond, or separation anxiety that continuously interferes with day-to-day activities, should be discussed with your doctor, as this may be an indication that something larger is going on here.

In some cases, this may be a sign of separation anxiety disorder, which is rare but serious.

Additionally, take note of any more severe, persistent symptoms. These include:

  • Panic symptoms: These include nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, or even panic attacks before a parent leaves the home
  • Nightmares about separation from caretakers and parents.
  • Fear of sleeping alone: This can be a sign of a bigger problem, but it is also common in children who do not struggle with separation anxiety.
  • Excessive worry about being kidnapped or lost, or a general fear of going places without a parent’s company.

If your child does begin to show these more serious symptoms, talking to your doctor will help you get to the bottom of it.

Tips for Easing Separation Anxiety

Fortunately, there are plenty of tips and tricks that may be able to help you and your child improve things when it comes to mild separation anxiety. These include:

  • Creating a goodbye routine: This entails coming up with a routine, and following that routine, each time either parent leaves the house. This routine will help prepare your child for the separation and can help soothe everyone involved.
  • Try to avoid sneaking away: Leaving in a sneaky, secretive manner may result in your child becoming more anxious or upset that they did not get to say goodbye to you.
  • Plan a happy reunion for when you return home: A happy reunion ritual that takes place when you come back home can help reinforce the parent-child bond, and it reminds your child that even when their parents leave, it is a happy time when you come back.
  • Try out homeopathic medicines to help your child sleep easier:Genexa’s Kids’ Sleepology - Organic Nighttime Sleep Aid can make bedtime easier when either parent is not around, and it is made with natural ingredients like chamomile to help ease your child to sleep naturally.
  • Stay in control of your emotions: If you get upset upon leaving your child, and your child sees this, it may make things worse for them. Try to keep your own emotions hidden until you are out of sight of your child.
  • Try homeopathic medicines to promote a sense of calm: Genexa’s Kids’ Calm Keeper is formulated to promote balance and relaxation throughout the day for children ages 3 and over, making a good choice for children who need a little extra help relaxing.

The Break Down

Separation anxiety is a common problem that families face at some point during their child’s growth, and it is a normal part of development that signifies a bond between parent and child.

Separation anxiety can happen at different times for different age groups, and usually occurs in infants, toddlers, or preschoolers. It is generally a temporary problem, but longer-lasting separation anxiety may be a sign of a bigger problem and should always be discussed with your doctor.

It can be upsetting for both you and your child, but in most cases it is temporary, and in all cases, certain tips and tricks might make a difference. So, rest assured that your child’s separation anxiety will be alleviated one way or another, even if just with time.

Tricks like creating a goodbye routine, avoiding sneaky getaways, and planning happy reunions when you return home can all be largely helpful in curbing your child’s anxiety about your departure, and staying in control of your own emotions when you are leaving may also help your child feel calmer.

In parallel, opting for modern homeopathic remedies like those offered by Genexa may help ease your child’s restlessness and help them get to sleep even when you are not around.

Whatever the case may be, separation anxiety is generally temporary, and might even be something you grow to miss as the teenage years roll around!



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