Hope For The Journey

8 Tips For
Managing Your
Child’s Separation

When you think of a child suffering from separation anxiety you may visualize a toddler crying by the window or a child holding onto their parent’s leg as they are trying to leave. Separation anxiety is quite common during preschool years and can also affect older children up until their teenage years. These behaviors can be stressful for parents, caregivers, and family to witness. Within this blog, I will be sharing how to identify separation anxiety and what you can do as a parent/caregiver to help your child or teen manage their symptoms better.

Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety can be defined as child or teen (infants-17 years of age) that experience great amounts of distress when separated from a parent/caregiver that can negatively impact their basic daily functioning. Some symptoms of separation anxiety may include: 

  • Extreme sadness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Socially withdrawn
  • Refusing to go to school
  • Worrying about the safety and health of family members
  • Fears around the thought of getting lost or being kidnapped
  • Meltdowns and or panic attacks
  • Avoiding outings with friends
  • Physical illness


Causes of Separation Anxiety

Just like many other mental health concerns, there is no single root cause for separation anxiety. There is a combination of factors that may play a role in separation anxiety such as genetics or stressful life experiences. Some children/teens may be born with more anxious temperaments than their peers or can inherit these anxious traits from their parents. Thus, it is important as parents/caregivers to not only recognize the anxious tendencies in their child/teen, but also in their own behaviors. Children/teens are like sponges. They are constantly absorbing information from social interactions. They tend to model the behaviors their parents/caregivers act out to certain stressors or situations.


Additionally, children/teens who have experienced stressful situations are also more than likely to develop separation anxiety. Stressful situations may include the following:

  • History of being removed from a parent of caregiver
  • The loss of a loved one
  • The start of a new school
  • Moving
  • Experiencing a pandemic 


Again, both genetics and environmental factors play a role in separation anxiety. If you recognize that your child/teen has an anxious temperament, rest assured that they do have the ability to cope and be resilient with your help.

Tips For Managing Separation Anxiety #1: Discuss Future Plans Together 

A big part of what makes children/teens anxious when they part from their parent/caregiver is the fear that they might not see them again. Discussing plans for your return helps to ease this fear. For example, “After work, I’ll come and pick you up and we can go grab ice cream together” or, “When I pick you up, we can do an activity of your choice together.” Having something to look forward to can help provide a positive distraction for your child/teen and help decrease their distress.


Tips For Managing Separation Anxiety #2: Practice Short Separations

You may try leaving your child/teen with a trusted friend or relative while you run a quick errand and see how that goes for them. This will allow your child/teen to slowly get used to what it’s like to be apart from you and to be able to identify that you will return. Over time you can increase outings to see how they adjust and can even plan play dates and or sleepovers in the future.



Tips For Managing Separation Anxiety #3: Explore Sensory Objects 

Does your child/teen have a favorite comfort object or even a favorite toy? If not, it might be a good idea to explore some possible sensory objects with your child/teen. Examples can include, a blanket, a stuffed animal, pictures of the family, a book, squishy toy, fidget spinner, etc. Don’t be afraid to get creative! A special toy or sensory object can help a child/teen to self-soothe when they are feeling distressed.

Tips For Managing Separation Anxiety #4: Provide Comfort & Practice Active Listening 

When you and your child/teen are spending time together, listen to what they have to say. It is helpful to be sure to always respond with understanding and compassion. You want to try to not minimize their worries. Minimizing worries can inadvertently increase their anxiety. It can also increase the possibility of them experiencing icky feelings of shame or guilt. It is helpful to be on the look-out for non-verbal cues as well, such as tantrums or extra clinginess.



Tips For Managing Separation Anxiety #5: Provide Introductions 

If you are about to introduce a new babysitter or maybe they will have a new teacher, try to arrange some short get-togethers or meetings with the three of you before leaving your child/teen alone with him or her. This way, when the time comes that you have to leave your child/teen with them for a period of time, they won’t be a stranger anymore and they will become comfortable with them. This will increase their capability for longer periods of time without you.



Tips For Managing Separation Anxiety #6: Practice Short Positive Goodbyes

Saying goodbye isn’t just difficult for your child/teen, it is hard for you, too! It is important that you try as best as you can to remain calm and positive when saying goodbye. You can practice this by smiling, telling your child that you will see them soon, that you love them, and that everything will be okay. It is essential that you do not prolong leaving. Prolonging leaving may be reinforcing their anxious thoughts, behaviors, as well as displaying distress that they can pick up on. Maintaining this routine will help your child/teen get accustomed to drop offs and will reassure them that you will always come back.


Tips For Managing Separation Anxiety #7: Be Consistent

Practice consistency by maintaining the same routine each day to avoid unexpected factors whenever you can. A set routine can help diminish the distress and will allow your child/teen to simultaneously build trust in you.



Tips For Managing Separation Anxiety #8: Keep Your Promises

You will build trust and independence as your child/teen becomes confident in their ability to be without you, when you stick to your promise of return. It can be beneficial to practice providing specifics of your return that your child/teen can easily understand. For example, if you know you’ll be back by 3:00 pm to pick them up, tell your child on their terms; “I’ll be back after you finish up your last subject in class or I’ll be back when the last school bell rings.” Maintaining your promises will help decrease anxiety in your child.



I understand how hard it is to see your child/teen cry or experience a great amount of distress. As a parent, caretaker, or guardian you will do what you have to in order to help your child/teen. I want to acknowledge that you are doing the best you can and by taking the time to read this blog, speaks volumes of how attuned you are to your child’s/teen’s needs. If you feel like you need additional support, we at Hope For The Journey would be happy to help support you and your child to manage their anxious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, so that they can be successful in regulating their emotions.

Still feel stuck on how to manage your child’s separation anxiety?

Being a parent is hard! It is even harder when you feel lost in what to do. At Hope For The Journey we have supportive and caring therapists ready to help you or your child get out of the state of uncertainty and into a place of wellbeing. To start therapy with Hope For the Journey, please follow these steps: 

1. Contact Hope for the Journey

2. Meet with a caring therapist

3. Start receiving the support you and your child/teen deserve.

Other Services Offered At Hope For The Journey

Our team is happy to offer a number of services from our Round Rock and Austin therapy offices. Mental health services include therapy for anxiety and depression, domestic violence, sexual assault, PTSD, and EMDR. Our team also provides support for family members of all ages with counseling for teens and young adults, children and tweens, couples, men, and parents/partners. Contact us today to learn more about our team and community involvement!

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