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Separation Anxiety in Older Children

Provo Canyon School

Provo Canyon School provides a therapeutic residential education for boys and girls with complex mental and behavioral health challenges. Provo Canyon School welcomes children with a variety of diagnoses, including separation anxiety.

Although very young children often experience separation anxiety as a normal characteristic of their developmental, some older children and even adolescents may display similar fears. These fears may continue from early childhood or develop later, depending on the child's genetic predisposition and environmental triggers. In some children, distress becomes more intense rather than less so as the years go by.
Like younger children, an older child with separation anxiety worries about being away from his or her significant attachment figure. The child may resist or be unwilling to engage in age-appropriate activities, including those taking place at school and in friends' homes, and may even have difficulty sleeping alone. For older children, these feelings are often more intense surrounding an anticipated separation, rather than an imminent one.
When faced with a departure, children with separation anxiety may worry not only for their own safety but for that of their loved ones. They may have trouble concentrating in school due to fear of an accident, fire, or other unlikely event that would cause the attachment figure never to come back. In some children, physical distress, such as headaches or stomachaches, accompany the emotional distress and troubling thoughts.
It is possible for children with separation anxiety disorder to improve with treatment. Common techniques include cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and relaxation training, the choice of which always depends upon the child's age and needs.

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