Why Does My Child Feel Anxious About Leaving Me?

child clings to parents leg anxious about leaving them

Reading time: 4 minutes

Suitable for: Families with primary-aged children

Are you the parent or carers who spends every morning on the school playground, trying to peel your child off your leg? While the other children gleefully run into the school building without so much as a backward glance, your child refuses to leave your side, and kicks, screams and cries until they are eventually bundled away by a sympathetic teaching assistant.

It can feel hugely traumatic, both for you and your child. You may feel close to tears, guilty about leaving your child, and worried about how to best support them.

While it is entirely natural for children to feel a little upset when separated from their parent or carer, some children will need some extra support to help them feel confident being apart from you.

What is separation anxiety?

According to Psychology Today, separation anxiety refers to, ‘…excessive fear or worry about separation from home or attachment figure.

While this is common behaviour in babies from around the age of 6 months, most children grow out of it by the age of 2. By that stage, they begin to understand that, even if they can’t see you (perhaps because they’ve nipped to the loo, or popped into another room), you will come back. Every child is different, so some take longer to reach this developmental milestone.

Some children continue to feel anxious about being separated from you. Perhaps you’ve used words like “clingy” to describe them because they want to stick close to you. You might find your child is reluctant to go to school, have a playdate, or attend a birthday party without you staying with them.

For more on attachment and how it can affect your child, listen to our podcast episode here.

Reasons why your child may feel anxious about being separated from you


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