All Posts Tagged: separation anxiety

Child Anxiety – Divorce Therapy for Children

Going through a divorce is stressful enough for the couple involved, but when children are added to the mix, it can bring a youngster’s fears to the forefront and trigger a cycle of child anxiety. The youth suddenly finds his or her world fracturing apart as the family divides into separate households. And, often the child has to adjust to living in a new home or going to a new school in addition to coping with their parent’s split.

Among other things, a divorce can increase a child’s aggression, bring up issues of separation anxiety, and negatively impact either (or both) the social and school performances of the youngster. It also increases the stress levels in children who already suffer from anxiety issues or mood disorders and can initiate anxiety-related concerns in children who do not normally have them.

Helping Children Cope with Divorce

When parents divorce, their children often react by showing:

  • Regressive behaviors (bedwetting, tantrums, thumb sucking, refusing to go to bed)
  • Rebellious behaviors (anger, disobedience, or (in an older child) disregard for the parents)
  • Increased episodes of crying or whining
  • Feel “sick” when they are healthy or becoming clingy
  • Separation anxiety
  • Blaming themselves for the divorce

The following are some ways that you, as a parent, can help diffuse some of the tension and child anxiety when going through a divorce:

  • Respect your child’s feelings and encourage them to talk to you about their fears. You may not have all the answers, but sometimes just listening and being supportive to your child can be enough.
  • Remember that your child has lost something, too. They have lost their time with one parent when they are with the other parent and, in many cases, have lost their familiar surroundings, peers, and maybe even a beloved pet or best friend.
  • Reassure your child that, no matter what, you love them now and will always love them. Be sure they understand that the divorce was not their fault and that there is nothing they could have done to prevent it.
  • Try to keep the same routines for bedtime, homework, play time, etc. New routines might need to be added (for example: going to the other parent’s house every Friday night), but keeping as close as possible to the same schedule helps children feel secure. It lets them know what to expect.
  • Rituals also create a sense of safety for your child. A family ritual such as “game night” creates an anchor for your child and gives them a sense of familiarity and a way to relate within their new world.

How Divorce Therapy for Children Can Help

Many times children will adjust to the breakup of a marriage after a “settling in” period, but in the case of youngsters who already have some anxiety, therapy might be the answer to helping children cope with divorce.

Divorce therapy for children is usually conducted through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This type of treatment is based on the theory that our thoughts cause our behavior and our resulting feelings – other people do not cause them. By understanding this and learning to modify our reactions, we can influence our emotions in a positive way so we can feel better about things we can not change. Becoming aware of inaccurate or negative thinking allows your child to change to a more positive way of thinking in order to decrease their anxiety.

Need More Information?

Is your child struggling with your divorce? We offer divorce therapy for children in a safe, supportive South Florida environment. For more information, contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Separation Anxiety and the Transition to College

We’ve passed the midpoint of the summer vacation break and parents and children are beginning to think about the upcoming school year. This is the time to start planning for new clothes and school supplies, including the dorm room items you’ll need if your child will be going off to college in the fall. Yet, with all the preparation parents make before their child goes away for the first time, often neither they nor the child think about separation anxiety and the emotional aspects of the transition to college.

New college freshmen often “talk big” about how glad they are going to be when they can finally get out on their own, but this may be just their bravado speaking. The first semester of college can be very stressful for your teen – many don’t realize that they’ll have to manage their day to day existence by themselves and won’t have their parents to fall back on. Also, it isn’t just the student who can have some problems coping – often parents struggle to adjust to this new phase of life without their teen and find themselves going through a bout of separation anxiety when their child leaves for school.

Even the most independent person can experience some homesickness in college during the first few weeks (or even months) in their new environment. They’ll have to make new friends, adjust to living with a roommate, and learn to navigate a new routine. If they have feelings of inadequacy before their transition to college, those emotions will be amplified, at least for a while.  Additionally, the child’s identity can be shaken during the transition to college – familiar peers who have given them a sense of “where they fit in” will no longer be around and the new freshman will have to figure out where they belong in the new world they’ve entered. With all this stress, it’s no wonder that about 21 % of college students use illegal substances and approximately 45 % binge drink in order to cope.

Separation Anxiety Symptoms

The following separation anxiety symptoms can affect both teens and parents:

  • A feeling of helplessness, sadness, worry, or anger
  • Excessive worry, allowing your thoughts to run wild (“what if?” thinking)
  • Fear or reluctance to go off to school and leave the familiar comforts of home
  • Nightmares or trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Stomachaches, loss of appetite
  • Crying
  • Racing heart, shortness of breath
  • Substance abuse

How to Help Your Child Deal with Separation Anxiety

It’s normal for children and parents to go through many of these separation anxiety symptoms during the first semester of college, but many are too embarrassed to seek help. Keep in mind that those who already suffer from a depression or anxiety disorder will require even more emotional support. Here are some ways you can help your new college student adjust to their transition to college:

  • Talk to your child before they leave for college and let them know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed as they adjust to their new life away from home.
  • Listen to your child and encourage them to talk about the stress they are feeling.
  • Encourage them to join a club, group such as a sorority or fraternity, or get involved in extracurricular activities as a way to make new friends.
  • Visit them at college if you are able (and if you are needed).
  • Educate yourself about the places your child can go for help, such as on-campus support groups or counseling centers. If necessary, get a referral to a nearby mental help therapist if there are no available resources at your child’s school.

Learn More

If you or your college student are suffering from the symptoms of college separation anxiety during the transition to college, we can help. Contact The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida or call us today at 561-496-1094.

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Separation Anxiety and School Refusal

The summer is waning – it’s almost time for autumn to roll around again, which means school will be starting soon. While most children look forward to this time so they can see their friends and enjoy various school activities, this can be a period of major anxiety for some school-aged children. These kids are extremely unwilling to leave home or be away from major attachment figures such as parents, grandparents, or older siblings. The beginning of the new school year is often seen as a threat to them, resulting in elevated anxiety levels and possible school-related disorders, such as separation anxiety disorder and school refusal.

In some cases the separation anxiety and school refusal follow an infection or illness or can come after an emotional trauma such as a move to another neighborhood or the death of a loved one. The anxiety generally occurs after the child has spent an extended time with their parent or loved one, perhaps over summer break or a long vacation.

Anxiety Definition

A teen or child is said to be suffering from a separation anxiety disorder if they show excessive anxiety related to the separation from a parent or caregiver or from their home, or if they exhibit an inappropriate anxiety about this separation as related to their age or stage of development. School refusal and separation anxiety are not the same: school refusal is not an “actual” diagnosis, instead it is a result of the child or teen having a separation anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, or social phobia, among other diagnoses.

Separation Anxiety Physical Symptoms

Children with separation anxiety have symptoms which can include:

  • Excessive worry about potential harm befalling oneself or one’s caregiver
  • Demonstrating clingy behavior
  • Avoiding activities that may result in separation from parents
  • Fearing to be alone in a room or needing to see a parent at all times
  • Difficulty going to sleep, fear of the dark, and/or nightmares
  • Trembling
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches and/or nausea
  • Vomiting

A child who exhibits three or more of these symptoms for more than four weeks is likely to be suffering from a separation anxiety disorder.

Treatment for School Refusal and Separation Anxiety

When treating a child with separation anxiety and school refusal, therapists try to help the child learn to identify and change their anxious thoughts. They teach coping mechanisms that will help the child respond less fearfully to the situations that produce their anxiety. This can be done through role-playing or by modeling the appropriate behavior for the child to see. Medication is sometimes appropriate in severe cases of separation anxiety. Additionally, the therapist encourages child to use positive self-talk and parents help with this therapy by actively reinforcing positive behaviors and rewarding their child’s successes.

Have Questions? Need Help?

To get more information and help for child anxiety, separation anxiety and school refusal, please contact Dr. Andrew Rosen and The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders in Delray Beach, Florida at 561-496-1094 or email Dr. Rosen and The Center today.

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