Separation Anxiety, Part 2

My own experiences with childhood anxiety inspired me to become a teacher of anxious students.  The anxiety disorder I see most frequently in my work is Separation Anxiety Disorder.  Remember, separation anxiety is perfectly normal in toddlers, and many young children have some difficulty in new situations.  Separation Anxiety Disorder is characterized by extreme or inappropriate separation anxiety and must be diagnosed by a doctor or mental health professional.  Read part 1 of this separation anxiety series for my experience with the disorder.

If you suspect that your child has Separation Anxiety Disorder or any other anxiety disorder (people often have more than one), please contact your pediatrician.  Note that helping your child overcome separation anxiety will take patience and incremental change. (Fearless Learning offers customized online coaching and consultation for students with anxiety.  Contact me for more information.  And, if you live in New York City, check out my services for anxious students!)

If you have a student who may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, consult with his or her parents to create a plan to help your student cope with his or her anxiety, and read on for tips and information.

Separation Anxiety Disorder can impede academic success in two major ways:  First, students may resist attending school.  Between 2 and 5 percent of school-age children suffer from anxiety-related school refusal.  Second, students with Separation Anxiety Disorder who are able to attend school may spend the day distracted by their anxiety.  In order to help students with Separation Anxiety Disorder, it’s important to understand their fears.  Very young children may not have specific fears and may instead simply feel uncomfortable, anxious, or panicked when separated from loved ones.  Older children and gifted youngsters are likely to have more specific concerns.  Like many children with Separation Anxiety Disorder, I was terrified of losing my mother.  Other children worry about getting lost or being kidnapped.  Extreme and inappropriate anxiety is hereditary, so don’t assume that children’s fears are the result of past experiences.  Instead, think of each fear as an arbitrary symptom of a disease.   Ideally, your student will learn to think of his fears similarly.

When one of your students expresses anxiety about being separated from a loved one, listen to her fears and offer appropriate reassurance.  Calmly assure students that their parents are safe and have neither abandoned them nor become injured, and stress that fear is not a predictor of catastrophe.  It may be helpful to explicitly explain that fear about losing a parent is not an indication that the parent has been harmed, a fallacy that even gifted students with anxiety may consciously or subconsciously entertain.   Anxious students may also worry (subconsciously, perhaps) that failing to worry about loved ones will result in the loss of those loved ones.  This type of magical thinking is common in individuals with Obsessive-compulsive Disorder but may be present in children with other anxiety disorders.

As always, treat anxious students with respect, compassion, and patience.

Tomorrow: the final installment of my separation anxiety series, including problem-solving tools for separation situations.


3 thoughts on “Separation Anxiety, Part 2

  1. There is a plethra of good ifnormation on the internet.I used to have insane anxiety and depression, I learned to cope by learning meditation, breathing techniques and learning to control my emotions and thoughts. I would research the same stuff. Also, there are many good products out there I have tried that work very well and are worth every penny. Was this answer helpful?

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