Separation Anxiety (SA) is when a child experiences significant anxiety in being separated from a caretaker or even in anticipation of a separation. The worry a child experiences is expressed through protesting the goodbye, excessive crying, or even tantrumming. When the caregiver finally separates, he or she may have to bargain by returning at very specific/predictable times. Typical places where separation anxiety is exacerbated include school drop-off, daycare, and bed. Often times children will refuse to sleep alone, and parents may feel the need to accommodate their request for fear that the child will not sleep or will bother them throughout the night. In severe cases children may also demand to be within distance of physical touch at all times.
Treating separation anxiety begins by working with caretakers in understanding what types of behaviors in the home may be promoting separation, and then empowering them to change those behaviors. Children are taught that they can enjoy the separation and learn to overcome their fear of being separated. This is done through imaginal exposures where the child learns to confront the very thoughts that make them anxious. Cognitive therapy is used to teach the child to identify and alter unhelpful beliefs. Finally, the child is taken through in-vivo exposures where they are gradually separated from their parents for larger lengths of time and distances. The treatment team at the Child Anxiety Center is ready to help you and your child be free to enjoy all parts of their lives, including moments of separation.