The impact of childhood and teenage anxiety disorders on later life
Image: Adobe Stock

How to ease your child’s separation anxiety the holistic way

Nature’s Pharmacy: Qualified homeopath Hanli Rautenbach gives advice on helping children cope with separation fears.


The impact of childhood and teenage anxiety disorders on later life
Image: Adobe Stock

For most parents separation anxiety shows itself when they drop their first-born off at playschool.

It literally feels as if your heart is going to break, especially while trying to disentangle yourself from a frantic child.

With modern technology  the teacher usually lets you know that the crying stopped as soon as you have left and then, blessedly, you feel your heart heal again and breathing return to normal.

Separation anxiety can affect all ages

It is absolutely normal for children to experience separation anxiety. It usually occurs in young children, but can extend into adolescence and even adulthood.

It becomes a disorder when the symptoms are excessive for the developmental phase, and start to interfere with school or other daily activities.

Separation anxiety disorder mostly relates to the child’s worry over his parents’ wellbeing and safety. It can be a disorder accompanied by other anxieties, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Symptoms of separation anxiety

separation anxiety
A family history of anxiety could be a factor in children with separation anxiety. Image: Adobe Stock

The intensity at which symptoms are experienced is important to note. These can include constant dread that something bad will happen that will cause separation from parents, nightmares about separation, avoiding outings so as not to be separated from parents, extreme distress from anticipating being separated from parents, and frequent physical complaints at the anticipation of separation.

Certain temperaments are more likely to develop separation anxiety disorder. If there is a history of anxiety disorders in the family, there is a bigger chance of separation anxiety. This kind of disorder can also be triggered by a traumatic event.

Separation anxiety is not really something you can prevent from happening, but if you get help the trajectory can be curbed.

Anxious children require consistent support

It is difficult and taxing to manage a child with this condition. They need you to be consistently supportive and set the example. Getting help and a diagnosis are important.

You need support, for instance from a therapist, to set the tone for your child’s therapy. Learning what triggers set your child off will also help you create routines in which to contain the situation as much as possible.

The modern world, through its very nature, and the requirements needed to survive and flourish in it, seems to create anxiety. We live in a time of false news and a multitude of stressors, and so the complexity of modern life can lead to a feeling of insecurity.

Trauma could be at heart of child’s anxiety

Another look at anxiety can relate to a feeling that we cannot trust the flow of life. If there has been trauma in your child’s life, his trust in life processes working out will have been scarred.

If you or your close family suffer from anxiety, your child might learn coping behaviour from you.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach for separation anxiety. Broadening your perspective, examining your situation without self-recrimination and getting the necessary help (for you and your child) so that you can follow through with the treatment regime is the aim.

Diet and calming practices can help

healthy diet child
A healthy diet can help improve anxiety in children. Image: Adobe Stock

Exercise, preferably outside, mindfulness techniques, avoiding artificial flavours, colourants and sweeteners, filling your diet with lots of vegetables and whole foods low in transfats and sugars, finding out if you or your child has a food intolerance to support your digestive and indirectly your nervous system, are all worthwhile endeavours.

Create calming practices, like making time in the car a place of peaceful music, repeating the same music over and over. This results in the car becoming a place to be safe on the way to school.

Homeopathic and other support

lavender child
Lavender oil is safe to use for children. Image: Adobe Stock

Additional considerations can include colour therapy, with the colours yellow and green uplifting and calming. You can paint a room, change a light bulb and reduce exposure to screen time.

Homeopathically, if the separation anxiety was triggered by a shock, treating that shock with a medicine that fits the picture would be ideal.

Made-up formulations like Nerva 2,3 and Nervuton 2 by Natura can be used to aid. The Bach Flower Remedies Red Chestnut, Aspen and Rock Rose can be considered.

Calming herbs and essential oils

Essential oils are powerful medicines and for children need to be used with great care. Lavender, peppermint and neroli have been determined to be safe for use in children. Using oils in a diffuser, even engaging your child’s imagination and using the diffuser as special spray to calm and “ protect”, will encourage use and form a positive connection.

Calming herbs like chamomile, lemon balm, passionflower and valerian root can be considered.

Discuss any medication you add with your doctor, so that medication does not end up contra-indicating one another.