Separation Anxiety Therapy
Does My Child Have Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a normal part of development in young children, typically between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. During these stages, separation anxiety can manifest through clingy behavior, crying, tantrums or other negative behaviors when separation from parents or familiar caregivers occurs. During this stage children begin to learn that even though mom or dad are out of sight, they will return; this is considered a normal part of childhood. As children grow older, separation anxiety typically decreases as they become more comfortable with new people and environments.
However, beyond the age of four, separation can become a more significant issue for families, and children. Parents of children with separation anxiety often notice and report severe distress, constant and extreme worrying, difficulty separating, and difficulties in school / extra curricular activities. Sometimes children will complain of frequent physical complaints such as headaches and, stomachaches. Separation anxiety can occur at any age, but often separation anxiety will appear during pre-school, kindergarten, and elementary school. However, new situations, negative experiences, or significant changes, such as a move or new school, can bring forward the symptoms of separation anxiety, which can cause the child significant distress when separating from the parent.
Sometimes separation anxiety will also impact home life, and children will have difficulty playing in their room independently, or sleeping alone; often calling for a parent to stay with them.
Common symptoms of separation anxiety can include:
- Excessive distress when separated from parent or caregiver
- Constant worry that something terrible will happen to their loved one / themselves
- Fear of an unpredicted event that could lead to permanent separation
- Nightmares about separation
- Refusal to go to school or activities because of the fear of separation
- Repeated physical complaints- “butterflies” or stomachaches, sweating, fast heartbeat, dizziness, etc.
- Constant shadowing of the loved one
- Avoidance of activities
- School refusal / avoidance
- Refusal to speak in social situations / selective mutism
- Difficulty engaging in normal independence levels
- Difficulty sleeping independently
- Difficulty with school drop offs
Some risk factors include:
- New situations (a move, new school, etc)
- Life changes (divorce, death in the family)
- Anxious children (children with a more anxious disposition)
- Trauma / Traumatic experience
How We Help
Child anxiety therapists at Groundwork Counseling in Orlando specialize in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)and gradual exposure therapy, which can be a very effective treatment for separation anxiety disorder for children. CBT involves helping children develop skills to help them identify, assess and modify their thoughts in order to reduce anxious feelings. Gradual exposure therapy helps children gradually face separation by starting with small steps and building up over time until they can separate without distress or fear. At Groundwork, our Separation Anxiety therapists help children establish healthy and balanced self-talk, as well as develop a perception of personal strength and increased independence. Parents are significantly involved in the treatment process, as success is highly dependent on the child practicing these skills daily with parent support. Parent education and guidance throughout this process is essential for long-term success.
Our approach is to provide the most empirically validated care and present it in a way that is engaging, and fun for children – encouraging them to practice new skills, while empowering parents with new tools. We provide evidence-based therapy both in-person at our offices in Maitland, or virtually to all families residing in Florida. Separation anxiety can be difficult for children, and their families and we’re here to help. If you’re concerned that your child may be experiencing separation anxiety, GroundWork Counseling would be happy to help – contact us to learn more about evidence-based therapy.
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Our Location: 400 South Orlando Avenue Suite 206, Maitland, FL 32814
Learn More: The Center For Anxiety & OCD at GroundWork Counseling
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