top of page

Has my child’s separation anxiety reached an unhealthy level?

Updated: Sep 3, 2018

Anxiety comes in many forms, but these six issues can escalate the problem and take separation anxiety to the extreme.

You're used to tears and the occasional cling to your leg as you head towards the preschool door. But the kicking? The screaming at the top of their lungs? The shaking and gasping as the tears get out of control? It's difficult for you to watch and hard on your child, especially if it happens on a consistent basis. Separation anxiety is common, but what constitutes anxiety that is beyond the scope of "normal"? And most importantly - should you be worried?

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that each child is different. Like adults, preschoolers cope with anxiety in different ways, and express it in various forms. An occasional tantrum be challenging, but likely, it’s not a sign that your child’s anxiety is out of control.

Rather, separation anxiety becomes unhealthy when the stress completely takes over, becoming so overwhelming that nothing you do helps comfort your child. And if this pattern continues for weeks, the stress placed on your child can become unbearable. Though heading to a doctor may seem like the best option in these scenarios, take a step back and think - what may be causing such anxiety? Likely, it’s not just a fear of preschool, but a deeper problem that is causing behavioral issues, emotional outbursts, and unnecessary stress for your little one. Problems at home or school can increase anxiety, so take a look to see if these issues may be the root cause of your child’s anxiety:

  1. Divorce. Your child may be young, but they likely know when mom and dad are stressed. An issue that seems unrelated to preschool may have implications at drop off time.

  2. Parental fighting or unrest. If there is unrest in the family due to family difficulties, talk to your pediatrician to get a referral for a psychologist or therapist to help you through this as a family. Perhaps a pediatric psychologist would be helpful for your child.

  3. A new baby in the home. This may also be a time to utilize a pediatric psychologist. It's common for children to have trouble adjusting to a new sibling. They may be exhibiting difficult behaviors due to jealousy.

  4. Illness in a close family member. If there is an illness in the immediate family, it may be taking a toll on your child even though they may not be able to express it in a way you can understand. Take the time to spend quality time with your child to calm their fears and help them to understand the situation.

  5. Illness in the child. There may be an underlying sickness or illness in your child that they're not able to convey to you. A visit to the pediatrician will help you identify any potential problems or, better yet, rule out any health issues.

  6. Problems at preschool. Perhaps your child is having issues with a student in their class, such as bullying or feeling left out socially. Talk to the teacher and/or Director to see if they've noticed this. Work together to find a solution that is best for your child and ultimately, helps ease the anxieties they feel about coming to school.

If the separation anxiety doesn't ease, talk to your child's preschool teacher. He/she will be able to recommend solutions, or know when it's time to seek outside help. And remember, don't worry until you know the root cause of your child's separation anxiety. With a little extra love and attention at drop off, your child will be ready for school in no time.

bottom of page