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By Phoebe Doyleeducational writer

Leaving a parent can be tough for young children and separation anxiety is far from uncommon


For some children, starting nursery or school may be their first time away from their parent or primary carer. As such a reluctance to be separated is a normal, expected and healthy response. With understanding, patience and coping strategies it can be relieved – and should fade with time.

Nursery boys eating


Separation anxiety

Terri Torevell, Communications Officer for Anxiety UK says: ‘Separation anxiety is a term used to explain a feeling of anxiety or stress when children are away from their parents, family or guardians. The degree of separation anxiety may vary from day to day – some days a child may be fine, whilst on other days he/she may exhibit high levels of anxiety and become extremely clingy.’

Terri urges parents and practitioners to be aware that it’s an inevitable part of childhood: ‘Separation anxiety is a normal part of development in children, and many will grow out of it by the age of four. At Anxiety UK we advise teachers to work with the child’s parents or guardians to put steps into place that allow the child to be away from them with relative ease.’ Parents and teachers are advised to focus on the positive things that happen at school, highlighting, for example, the child’s favourite activity (for example, ‘We have PE today’ or ‘Are you going to help with the milk?’), giving the child something to look forward to.

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