School Fear

School Fear / Separation Anxiety / School Refusal

Separation anxiety is a normal part of a child’s development. During the first six months of  life, the baby has no idea that it is independent from the parents or any other caregiver. 

school student

Most infants will happily move from one lap to another as long as they get cuddles and comfort. It simply doesn’t matter who provides the food or the love, as long as it’s there.It is normal and healthy for your baby or young child to become upset when you have to leave, even for a short while. Most infants will happily move from one lap to another as long as they get cuddles and comfort.

At about 6 months, however, the baby begins to distinguish one person from another and starts forming strong emotional attachments to the parents and caregivers. It also begins to understand the concept of object permanence i.e. that when the mother leaves the room, she is gone. The child then begins to wonders when the mother will return. If the mother does not return immediately the stage is set for separation anxiety.

The anxiety of the baby at the departure of the mother is actually a positive sign. It is an indication that the child is attached to the parents. It is, therefore, a normal part of child development. However, it can become a problem if it is not handled properly.

Leaving your baby is never easy. Departing as the child screams and desperately clings to them is enough to make the most confident parents wonder what they are doing

Separation anxiety is usually mishandled by parents who are themselves anxious, nervous, or high strung. It is also mishandled by parents who feel GUILTY about leaving the child. Such parents over-react to the child’s crying when they leave. and the parents begin CLINGING to the baby, never leaving it and always holding on to it.


Don’t hang around trying to comfort the child. This will only prolong the agony. Instead, give your child a hug and a kiss, say ” I love you”, and hand it over to the caregiver. Soon enough, the child will stop crying — and you’ll stop feeling guilty.

When you come back for the child develop a “Happy reunion” ritual. This is essential to reinforcing your parent-child bond and keeping separation anxiety in check. If the child reaches up to you when you arrive, give it a big hug and just play with it a little while before heading out with it. The happy reunion ritual will remind your child that no matter how sad it is when Mummy and Daddy leave,it is always wonderful when they come back.


Tips to handle Separation Anxiety:

To make separation less of a shock, you can begin by playing “peekaboo” (hiding your face from the child) to make the child understand that you will return even if it cannot see you. You can also send its favorite toys on little “journeys” and then reunite them with your child. This can be followed up by playing “hide and seek”, beginning with you hiding behind the chair, and gradually moving away to hide outside the room.

You can begin training the child to be away from you by leaving your child with people you trust at an early age. Start out with short periods of time and then slowly increase the length of time. It will make your child and you feel more comfortable with the separation.

Never sneak away when you leave your child. Instead, create a good bye ritual. Include a hug, a kiss, and an “I love you,”.  You might also want to kiss the palms of your child’s hand and have your child save those kisses in its pocket. If the child miss you, it can reach into it’s pocket, pull out a kiss and place it on it’s cheek.

When you take your baby to day care, or on a visit, you must spend time acquainting it with its surroundings, before you leave it alone for even a few seconds. You must then acquaint the child with the new care giver (the teacher / aunt / grandmother) till the baby is comfortable with them. You can then begin to play hide and seek, leaving the child with the new care giver for a short while and then returning.

It will also help your baby if you take along some security objects such as a favorite toy or blanket. These items will provide the child with a strong sense of safety and connection to home.

Before you leave your baby alone with the caregiver, you must make sure that it is comfortable with that person. That way, your child won’t feel as if it is being left with a stranger. You must also  let the new care giver know about your child’s favorite comfort zones such as toys, games, foods etc., and things that make the child nervous or upset..

NEVER sneak away to avoid making the child cry! That will only undermine your child’s sense of security. It’s normal, and healthy, for your baby to cry when you leave, so don’t discourage it. Instead, create a good-bye ritual that will soothe both of you etc., a special good-bye song, kiss or wave or a combination of all of these. This should be developed during the early hide-and-seek games, and will make the feel more secure with the knowledge that you will return.