SEPARATION ANXIETY IN PRESCHOOLERS:

Separation anxiety is the fear children have of being parted from their parents or guardians. It’s common and normal among babies and toddlers. A very small number of preschoolers and school-age children develop a more serious form of the condition, called separation anxiety disorder. There are things you can do if you have a child with either of these issues.

 

These anxieties are a normal part of development, and are nothing to be concerned about. After all, these anxieties occur when children are becoming more mobile, so they make sense from a survival point of view – that is, if children could crawl or walk away from their carers but weren't afraid of separation or strangers, they would get lost more easily.

Separation anxiety disorder:

As children reach preschool and school age, they are less likely to experience separation anxiety. Of course, there will always be times when they only want to be with you.

If children in this age group seem particularly and regularly distressed about being separated from their parents, it’s possible they might have separation anxiety disorder. According to a 2009 study, 4% of preschoolers and school-age children develop this condition.

Separation anxiety disorder is defined as occurring when the::

·         anxiety interferes with the child’s life, and subsequently the parent’s life
·         severity of the anxiety is inappropriate for the child’s developmental level
·         characteristics of separation anxiety have persisted for at least four weeks.
     If you’re concerned your child might have separation anxiety disorder, look out for instances when she:
·         dislikes being separated from you
·         worries that you or she might get hurt or have an accident
·         refuses to go to day care, preschool or school
·         refuses to sleep at other people’s places without you
·         complains about feeling sick when separated.

Helping children with separation anxiety

If your child is suffering from separation anxiety, there are lots of things you can do to help her.

·         Tell your child when you’re leaving and when you’ll be back. This is a helpful thing to do, even with babies. Some parents feel it will be easier to sneak out when their child is settled, but this can make things worse – your child might feel confused or upset when he realizes you’re not around, and might then be more difficult to settle the next time you leave him.
·         Say goodbye to your child briefly – don’t drag it out.
·         Settle your child in an enjoyable activity before leaving.
·         If you’re leaving your child in a new setting (child care centre, preschool, friend’s house, babysitter), spend time at the new place with your child before the separation occurs. She needs to know she’s being left in a safe place with a person you can both trust, and she’ll be less distressed if she’s left in a familiar place with familiar people.
·         To increase your child’s feelings of safety, let him take something he loves from home, such as a teddy bear, pillow or blanket. These objects can be gradually phased out as he becomes more settled.
·         Keep a relaxed and happy expression on your face when you’re leaving your child. If you seem worried or sad, your child might think the place isn't safe and can get upset too.
·         It can be useful to tell your child’s child care centre, preschool or school about her anxiety, and let them know about anything you’re doing to help your child. This way, other people in your child’s environment can give her consistent support.
·         Gently encourage your child to separate from you by giving him practice. It's important to give him positive experiences of separations and reunions. Avoiding separations from your child can make the problem worse.
·         No matter how frustrated you feel, avoid criticizing or being negative about your child’s difficulty with separation. For example, avoid saying things like, ‘She’s such a mummy’s girl’ or ‘Don’t be such a baby’.
·         Read books or make up stories with your child about separation fears. (For example, ‘Once upon a time, there was a little bunny who didn't want to leave her mummy in the hutch. She was afraid of what she might find outside …’.) This might help your child feel he’s not alone in being afraid of separating from his parents.
Make a conscious effort to foster your child’s self esteem by complimenting her and giving her lots of positive attention.

Professional help

You know your child best. If you’re worried about his anxiety, consider seeking professional help. Here are some places to start::

  • ·         your child’s school counsellor
  • ·         your child’s GP or paediatrician
  • ·         local children’s health or community health centre
  • ·         a specialist anxiety clinic (present in most states).



HOW CAN YOU MAKE YOUR CHILD EAT HEALTHY:

We are currently waged in a full-force battle for our children’s lives, and it starts the second they take their first bite. One of the primary responsibilities of parenting is to provide children the tools for optimal health. In this country of convenience, meals-on-the-go have become the norm, and we've let our kids decide their diet based on commercials for high-sugar, low-nutrient foods. One in three children will be a diabetic adult. Perhaps more sobering, for the first time in history, our children will not live as long as the generation before them. 


The time is upon you to start making nutritional decisions for your kids. It’s never too early to teach them the ABCs of beneficial foods, and the harmful short- and long-term effects of eating poorly.

Use these guidelines to improve your family’s nutrition. Your children will thank you for the lifelong gift of health and a strong nutritional foundation can turn into a legacy.

 

1. Walk the walk. Your children are going to eat what you eat. Simple as that. Kids want to emulate their parents and nutrition is no exception. As the adult, you have to practice what you preach. You can’t expect them to ask for water when you’re slurping down a soda. Learn the principles of optimal health posted throughout Pure HealthMD, and apply them to your daily habits.

2. Start a garden. This can be a very healthy family bonding project. Each child should be allowed to pick something to grow and given responsibilities for the care of the garden. Start small and learn as you go. Your child will attain lifelong lessons about sustainability and organic foods and, most importantly, they will want to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor.

3. Involve them in food preparation.
 Children that peel carrots or cut broccoli will want to eat what they helped prepare. They yearn to be a part of everything you do, so why not dinner? If they are younger and not ready for sharp utensils, let them stir the oatmeal or flip the pancakes with your help.

4. Feed them like little adults.
 There is no reason why a child should not eat what you are eating. Try to limit separate meals or giving options to appease them. After all, you aren't a short-order cook. If you’re eating stir-fry tonight, that’s what’s on the menu for everyone. This rule holds particularly true with eating out. Usually, the children’s menu is a line-up of the most highly processed, unhealthy foods imaginable, and should be for coloring, not ordering. Feed your child like an adult. Order a grilled chicken breast with a side of steamed vegetables. Ask the waiter to bring them a half order, or better yet share one entree.

5. Cleanse the pantry.
 Go through the cupboard and rid your home of all products listing high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oil as ingredients. These lead the charge of contributors to the childhood obesity epidemic. Throw out those products with more than four or five ingredients. Instead, load up on unsalted and unsweetened nuts, dried fruit, or combine these to make trail mix.

6. Redefine snacks. There is no reason for a child to expect candy, cookies or chips on a daily basis. From now on, snacks are pieces of fresh fruit, cut up vegetables or a cup of oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts. Let your child know what is healthy and what is not. Inform them. They should eventually grasp the idea that sugary snacks will lead to weight gain, acne, fatigue, poor concentration and rotting teeth. Teach them the value of fresh produce and water, and that there are no other options. Over time they will accept, and even ask for, the new and improved snacks.


7. Drink water.
 Children need to learn to drink and appreciate water. Time and again, we hear, “I can’t stand the taste of water.” It’s water—it has no taste. For a child, this idea is often adopted from the parent, so let them see you drinking water, lots of it. Don’t flavor it, don’t color it. Let your child know there is no other option. Sports drinks are a dangerous substitute, as they have high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, which a child’s body does not handle well. What’s worse, they are drinking these while being active, which means their mouths are dry and the natural saliva that protects the teeth is not there. The syrup has direct access to the tooth, promoting decay and harmful bacteria.

8. Make the decisions. When it comes to the day-to-day dangers and decisions, parents are aware that a child doesn't know what’s best for them. Nutrition is no exception. Don’t allow them to refuse healthy offerings and hold out for cheap sources of calories. Give them a loaded choice, “Will it be broccoli, cauliflower or brussels sprout tonight honey?” Don’t budge. When you serve healthy foods, and they’re used to unhealthy options, it can be a struggle. Stick to your guns. Let them know that they don’t have to eat now, but later when they are hungry they can have the original food reheated. A child will never let themselves starve.


9. Eat together.
 Around the family table, there are more than nutritional benefits. Statistically, there is less drug use, high risk sexual activity and better parental communication in children who sit down to meals with their family. Make sure at least half of all meals are eaten together. If you’re on the go, schedule time to pull over or have a picnic together. Eating in the car does not count. The focus must be on nothing but eating good food and being together. To prevent interruption, turn off the technology.

10. Make a rule. The rule of the house should be, “If you’ve never tried it, you are not allowed to say you don’t like it.” Certainly there are foods that they won’t like. It happens. But once the initial hesitation passes, the whole clan might be surprised.

11.Experiment. While peas, carrots and corn hold nutritional value, they shouldn’t be the only sources of vegetables your child eats. Every vegetable has different essential nutrients. Start by trying to incorporate every color, daily. Try some wild and random vegetables that you usually pass at the grocery. Make it fun by looking up preparation ideas online and have a family vote on how it’s prepared. Better yet, prepare it two or three different ways and have a family taste test.

12. The advanced class. Once you’ve introduced more sound nutritional principles to the table, start to consider making the organic movement. So much of our produce is laced with pesticides and herbicides that are not only directly harmful to your child, but by protecting the growing plant, they are usually less nutritious. Go to www.foodnews.org to learn what fruits and vegetables are most affected by these chemicals. Buying organic of those items in the “clean dozen” can be a lower priority.