Separation Anxiety In Older Children Is a Thing [and You Are Not Alone]

When my son was two, he screamed any time I left the house.

Tears would flow and ruin my makeup every single day on the way to work. I was never really sure how to process all the emotion that welled up inside me, hearing his cries.

He’s only two.

It’s developmentally appropriate.

He needs to learn he can live without you and that you will always return. 

He’ll be fine two minutes after you leave. 

Everyone told me it was just a normal part of childhood.

But it didn’t seem normal.

No other mother I knew had a child who struggled so much with separating.

As he grew, some ages and stages were better than others.

When he was five, I would breathe a sigh of relief when I closed the door behind me and there was no tantrum.

When he was eight, he wanted to sleep over at a close family friend’s house. He had a blast.

It seemed like separation anxiety was slowly, but surely, becoming a thing of the past.

Separation Anxiety In Older Children

Then puberty hit and along with the increase in hormones came massive brain chemistry changes that sent my sweet boy spiraling into depression and eventually, mania.

When we went in for a neuro-psych evaluation, the doctors asked me a ton of questions about his level of anxiety and his ability to separate. I answered them honestly, but with a lingering shame.

No, he will no longer use the bathroom alone.

He cries for me all night long, just like when he was a baby.

When he tried to go to his friend’s house the other day, he had a panic attack in the car and we had to turn around and come home. 

He is like my shadow again. He doesn’t want to let me out of his sight.

I tried to leave last week and he tackled me, crying and clinging, begging me not to go. 

He met the diagnostic criteria for separation anxiety disorder before we were even half way through the evaluation.

separation anxiety in older children

Is Separation Anxiety Disorder A Real Diagnosis?

It is.

And in my experience, it causes significant impairment in everyday life.

Shawna Wingert
Shawna Wingert
Shawna Wingert is a wife to a wacky, voice actor husband, and a special needs momma to two uniquely challenged little boys. Passionately real, she takes an honest look at the messy and the painful, the sweet and the laughable, and how Jesus is in the midst of it all. You can find Shawna at her blog, Not the Former Things, and on Facebook.

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