From infancy through adulthood, we have felt the overwhelming emotion of anxiety. It may have been the feeling of butterflies in the stomach, difficulty concentrating or even difficulty breathing. In children, reluctance to be separated from a caregiver is a normal healthy response and even demonstrates to a caregiver that the child has developed a healthy attachment.
But, what if your child continues to suffer from anxiety for a period greater than 3-4 minutes? If this occurs prior to the age of 12 months, it may be a natural reaction. However, anxiety, with excessive irritability and temperament, exceeding 3-4 minutes beyond age 12 months, may be an indication of separation anxiety.
To aide the caregiver and child in the struggle with separation anxiety, several books have been developed to provide a practical guide for breaking the anxiety reaction. These books address a child’s fear, sadness, self-esteem associated with separation from the caregive along with guidance and recommendations for daily sleep schedules and the need to foster independence and exploration in young children.
A prominent author, Rosemary Wells, has written several children’s books addressing the concerns of separation anxiety. One such book, Mama, Don’t Go! (Hyperion Books for Children, $3.99) provides a loving story for children about to head into the first day of school. The book is told from the perspective of Yoko, a sweet kitten, who is excitedly anticipating the first day of school only to be overcome with fear and sadness when the day arrives. This book reassures the pre-school age child that separating and heading into the classroom is a safe environment.
For the younger child, author Kathi Appelt has written a book entitled, Oh My Baby Little One (Harcourt Children’s Books, $16.00) which also addresses the separation which occurs on the first day of school. However, this book leans toward a much younger audience and is beautifully illustrated to maintain the attention of a young child.
And, of course, we can not forget to mention the infamous Marc Weissbluth, M.D., who has blessed many caregivers with his words of wisdom and easy to read guides for parenting. In his book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (Ballantine Books, $29.99), Dr. Weissbluth addresses the various areas of daily living which may impact the ability of a child to deal and cope with separation more effectively. For example, Dr. Weissbluth addresses the need for scheduled sleep time, including scheduled naps, as a measure for developing a routine of expectations within a child’s day. His book also aides in addressing crybaby syndrome, nightmares and bedwetting which are conditions co-morbid to separation anxiety in a child.
And finally, there are children’s books which do not directly address separation anxiety but, instead, address the adventure of establishing one’s own independence and identity. One such series, Curious George (Houghton Mifflin Books, $30.00/series), explores the adventures of a monkey while his caretaker, the “man in the yellow hat”, leaves him alone. Through this series, children learn to identify with adventures of exploring independence and the freedom associated with the exploration.
Separation Anxiety is a condition relatively common in young children. Upon reaching 12 months of age, a caregiver should begin to see the symptoms decrease. However, in some cases, a caregiver may begin to face the dilemma of “what to do” with a unhappy child. With parenting guide books, books written at the child’s age level and books addressing the excitement of independence, a child will begin to find peace from separation anxiety while exploring the art of reading.