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Understanding Separation Anxiety

3 Main Reasons Why Separation Anxiety Occurs

Separation anxiety is a normal stage of development when a child feels intense distress or anxiety when separated from a person or place to which they are emotionally attached.


Let's look at 3 reasons why Separation Anxiety happens.

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1. Realizing they are their own unique person separate from you

Separation anxiety begins around the age of 7 months. Little ones are very aware of who their primary caregiver is at this age. They have formed a strong attachment and know who that person is.


At 7 months they know that they are no longer a part of you. You will notice that they will turn their head if you call them or put their hands out for you to pick them up. These little behaviours indicate that they are aware that they are their own little person.

Before this, they thought of themselves as an extension of you. The separation anxiety will slowly start peaking towards 18 months.

2. Object permanence is developing

Object permanence refers to a child’s ability to understand the concept that objects still exist even though they can’t be seen anymore.


At around 18 months, toddlers are able to form mental representations of objects. Because they can form pictures in their mind’s eye, they are now able to fully understand object permanence. Separation anxiety will be at its absolute peak. Imagine a child being able to "see" you in their mind for the very first time, but are unable to see you because you are not there. Imagine how scary that must be for them. We can now understand why separation anxiety peaks at this time.

We then get a plateau until around the age of 2. After the age of 2, it will slowly start decreasing until a child is about 3 years old.

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3. They have no concept of time

Little ones don’t understand the concept of time and will not know when you are going to return.


This makes them fearful and it becomes difficult to be away from their primary caregiver.


We are happy to offer assistance, guidance and support in terms of understanding your child's development and decoding their behaviour.


Contact us here for Parenting Support in Child Behaviour and Development or email to find out about the next course/workshop. Register for our Positive Discipline course to learn all the tools to equip you with becoming the positive, conscious and empowered parent you envision for your family!

Module 3: Understanding A Child's Development And Decoding Their Behaviour

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Need more help? Contact Us for support to guide you in building a loving relationship with your child based on mutual respect.

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