Anxiety Disorders » Separation Anxiety Disorder How To Solve Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation Anxiety Disorder How To Solve Separation Anxiety Disorder
In the comic strip Calvin & Hobbes, Calvin plays out a fantasy that many children share. Flying in a fighter plane, he lets guns and rockets rip and pulverizes the school building, all the while howling gleefully. Calvin, needless to say, was not wild about going to school.
Some children with separation anxiety will complain about going to school because their teacheris a witch, or the children tease or bully, or the schoolwork is too hard or too easy. If your child has separation anxiety, these complaints are real but second-ary to the fear of leaving you. But if your child has school phobia, what awaits him at school is the primary issue.
A child who has school phobia refuses to go to school and may show panic reactions if forced to go.
If you are concerned that your child may be school phobic, check his behavior against these symptoms:
The child refuses to go to school or stay in school. If forced to go, the child may show symptoms of panic, trembling, racing heart, dizziness.
The nature of the phobia may be specific, for example, fear of being harmed by a bully, or of being teased, ridiculed or criticized by teachers or other children.
Lets look more closely at the reasons why a child may fear school:
Learning problems: A child may have learning problems and become easily frustrated and humiliated at his continual failure when the other children seem to come up with the answers easily.
Intimidating teacher: Some very sensitive children may be frightened by an intimidating teacher who may behave harshly toward them. And though the child is well behaved—sensitive children generally are to avoid punishment—observing how other children get harshly treated is frightening.
Intimidating children: Very shy or sensitive children are easily intimidated by bullies or cruel children, and are afraid to speak out and defend themselves. Even normal childhood teasing easily distresses them.
Fear of failure: Taking tests, giving a speech or performing evokes fears of failure.
To distinguish a school-phobic child from one who is separation-anxious, ask yourself where the child is when not in school. If the child is school-phobic, he is happy to be anywhere but in school. If separation-anxious, he is only happy if home with, or near, his mother, and becomes fearful and avoids not just school, but a slew of situations related to the theme of separation.
Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, Its Off to School We Go
What are the secrets to getting your child happily off to school? First, be aware that separation anxiety and school phobia are complex problems that may not be resolved easily. As in overcoming childhood fears in general, the more you help boost your childs self-efficacy, inner control and trust in people (see Chapter 19) through empathy, information, gradual exposure, play and stories, the safer your child will feel anywhere in the world, school, summer camp, parties, grandmas house, or overnights. Should you too suffer from separation anxiety, you need to address your- own pain in letting your child go.
Always take your childs feelings seriously. If you validate her concerns about leaving you and reassure her. I know youre afraid about going to school. But when you come home, I will be there. I will never leave you. She will trust in your availability and, when she returns and finds you at home, that what you say is dependable and reliable. This will enable her to predict your comings and goings, encouraging inner control and self-efficacy. Give young children a personal possession like a photo, or a charm, to keep with them and turn to when feeling stressed. A favorite snack also helps. When you return, greet your child warmly, ask about her day, and remind her of your promise. See, mommy told you she would be back, for example, You can trust me. Recognize how hard it was for her to be away from you and praise her for being in school all day.
Some children who take forever to get dressed in the morning may be tactile, defensive and greatly bothered by the feel of clothing on their skin. Some signs: demanding removal of labels in clothing and requesting loose clothing of soft material. For more information, contact the Sensory Integration Institute and see The Out-of-Sync Child, by Carol Kranowitz (see Append& B).
If you have a child who clings as you try to leave, you probably feel terrible, as if you are a bad mother to leave her all alone with twenty other children and a room full of toys. To help your child separate from you, work on letting yourself separate from her.
Often, it is the mothers need for the child and her own difficulty in separating that creates folk a deux, a kind of mutual delusion that can lead to an unhealthy mutual dependency. Perhaps youre in a lousy marriage and wish your child to fill in for the love youre not getting from your partner. Or perhaps you just wish to keep him mommas boy so hell never leave you. Whatever the reason, enmeshment is smothering and unhealthy. If you cant separate, you make it hard for your child to separate. Give him a hug and a shove.
With preschool children, who have a poor conception of time, describe your return in terms of their activities. When you get up from your nap, youre going to have a snack. By the time you finish your snack, mommy will come pick you up. For more information on the preschool child and negotiating separation, see Starting School, by Nancy Balaban.
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