Separation Anxiety (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
The child's progress in regaining normal function should be closely monitored. Factors that discourage the child from returning to health, such as family stressors, should also be explored. The therapist's approach to a child with separation anxiety should be low-key and expectations should progress at a pace that does not increase the child's anxiety.
Techniques such as modeling, role-playing, relaxation techniques, and positive reinforcement for independent functioning can be helpful in preventing young children from developing crippling symptoms associated with separation anxiety.
Helping children with separation anxiety to identify the circumstances that elicit their anxiety (upcoming separation events) is important. A child's ability to tolerate separations should gradually increase over time when he or she is gradually exposed to the feared events. Encouraging a child with separation anxiety disorder to feel competent and empowered, as well as to discuss feelings associated with anxiety-provoking events promotes recovery.
Children with separation anxiety disorder often respond negatively to perceived anxiety in their caretakers, in that parents and caregivers who also have anxiety disorders may unwittingly confirm a child's unrealistic fears that something terrible may happen if they are separated from each other. Thus, it is critical that parents and caretakers become aware of their own feelings and communicate a sense of safety and confidence about separations.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/12/2014
Bettina E Bernstein, DO
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According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), separation anxiety is a fairly common anxiety disorder that consists of excessive anxiety beyond that expected for the child's developmental level related to separation or impending separation from the attachment figure (eg, primary caretaker, close family member) occurring in children younger than 18 years and lasting for at least 4 weeks.