Typically these are children who have not outgrown normal separation anxiety and feel intensely uncomfortable and anxious when away from important people and environments in their lives. Going to a friend’s house, being left with the babysitter and even going to school may be a struggle. Possible separation may result in a variety of physical symptoms, such as stomachaches, headaches and nausea. Parents may begin to feel that the child is fabricating these symptoms. In reality, their anxiety is real, but they have also learned that they can avoid the dreaded outcome (separation) by reporting such symptoms.
Occasionally, life stressors, loss of a pet or family member, or a change of environment can trigger these behaviors.
Most children such as these are not seen by a clinician or therapist until there is a full blown case of school refusal/school phobia.
A variety of behavioral strategies are available for children to manage their distress. In addition, parent training as well as school consultation may also be helpful and recommended.
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