By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist
My child is in fourth grade and we are again going through separation anxiety. No changes have occurred in the home or our morning routine. But when she is expected to exit from the car drop-off area and go into the school, she freezes and immediately begins to cry. What am I supposed to do?
You didn't mention how your daughter explains her distress when it's time to get out of the car. Is she worried about something or someone at school? She may be having difficulty with a particular subject or a teacher, she may have an upcoming test or project, she may be being bullied, or she may have had a break with a favorite peer. Or, is she worried about something or someone at home? If she or someone else was recently ill or injured, or there has been conflict among family members, she may be worried about that.
Anxiety is a standard part of development; we all experience these feelings, and a small amount can even be productive. However, when worry becomes excessive, persistent and developmentally inappropriate, there may be an emerging anxiety disorder. Separation anxiety disorder is defined as unwarranted worry and fear about being apart from family members or individuals to whom a child is attached. Other symptoms can include the following:
Symptoms from family members must last for a period of at least four weeks to be considered separation anxiety disorder. This disorder can be successfully treated, and intervention should begin with a comprehensive evaluation of the child and family by a qualified mental health professional. Treatment recommendations may include therapy for the child, with a focus on helping her learn skills to manage her anxiety. Some children may also need treatment with anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication to help them feel calmer. Parents are a critical part of treatment, and consultation with the child's school will be important.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
Tell us for a chance to win one of two $150 Amazon gift cards! Your input will help us better serve parents like you. The survey will only take a few minutes.
Sign up for our free newsletter and we'll send you
more just like it every week.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for , including performance data and recently posted user reviews.