Separation anxiety is a stage of development in which children become anxious, nervous, or scared upon separation from a parent and is normal in preschool and daycare. Children may cry and cling to parents at daycare center drop-off time, need a carry a security item throughout the day, and/or cry at pick up time. Separation anxiety typically peaks between the ages of 12 months and two years. Our interview with Jennifer Brackett, intervention specialist for Little Sprouts, discusses the issue of separation anxiety in the daycare and preschool setting.
OwnADaycare: Can you define separation anxiety in preschool aged children and some of its characteristics? At what age range is separation anxiety most common?
Jennifer Brackett: Separation Anxiety is an extremely common fear particularly in younger children. Most will grow out of it: as they mature, gain more experience at being separated from their parents and are encouraged to be more independent. Separation Anxiety typically peaks between the ages of 12 months and two years. However, it is not uncommon for children to exhibit separation fears beginning at 9 months. Separation Anxiety usually decreases by the age of three. Some of the behaviors that children may exhibit are: crying and clinging at drop off time as well as transition times throughout the day, such as outside time or nap time; carrying a security item throughout the day; and sometimes crying at pick up time because it reminds them of how they felt when the parent dropped them off.
OwnADaycare: What is the difference between separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder?
Jennifer Brackett: While separation anxiety is very typical in young children Separation Anxiety Disorder is just that, a medical condition that causes significant distress and fear when a person is away from parents, another caregiver or home. This fear is sometimes based in the belief that harm will come to the attachment figure in their absence. In extreme cases the child will refuse to be in a separate room from their attachment figure. Anxiety disorders are believed to have biological, family, and environmental factors that contribute to the cause. A chemical imbalance involving two chemicals in the brain (norepinephrine and serotonin) most likely contributes to the cause of anxiety disorders.
OwnADaycare: What are some factors that contribute to separation anxiety? What factors can reduce separation anxiety?
Jennifer Brackett: Some common factors that can contribute to separation anxiety are:
- Minor or major illness
- Changes in home routine
- Changes in the family such as, birth of a sibling, divorce, death or illness
- Change in caregiver or routine at day care
Parents usually are not the cause of separation anxiety, but they can be an influential factor in reducing or escalating the anxiety.
Some of the information above has been taken from:
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