It’s no surprise that babies cry a lot. Until they learn to speak, crying is their way of communicating. Groans, whimpers and tears convey when they are hungry or need to have their diapers changed. Also, when they are tired, lonely or upset about something. Any parent can tell you to expect this behavior for at least the first three months of your child’s life.
However, there is definitely a line between a healthy amount of crying and not. If you feel your child is behaving in a way that isn’t normal, he or she may be showing signs of separation anxiety.
Definition of Terms
But what is “separation anxiety” exactly? As the term itself would suggest, separation anxiety is a developmental stage where a child experiences intense anxiety when separated from his or her parents. Or, more specifically, their mother. For babies between the ages of 8-14 months, this is very normal.
Separation anxiety can affect both biological and adopted children, and can make appearances at varying times throughout their life. For instance, your child may experience separation anxiety off and on through their elementary years. Your child’s individual temperament and how you respond as a parent typically dictates how long it will last. Sometimes, the fears bolstering the anxiety will resolve on their own. If the anxiety continues to worsen, however, this could be a sign of something embedded deep inside. In cases like this, it’s best to seek professional help and ask about Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
Separation Anxiety Symptoms
At the root, children who suffer through separation anxiety are constantly fearful about being separated from their loved ones. Those they trust and feel safe around. While the symptoms vary from child to child, here are some of the more commonly known signs:
With newborns –
- Crying at the same time every day, or for no apparent reason
- Interrupted sleep
- Inability to be left alone
- Distress when preparing to leave home
In babies a bit older –
- Complaints of feeling ill (i.e. tummy ache or headache)
- Refusal to go to school or daycare
- Issues going to bed at night, especially alone
- Constantly worrying they will be left behind or forgotten
In more severe cases of separation anxiety, adopted infants can develop colic. If you see your child clenching her fists more than normal, develop a bloated stomach or cries for three or more hours each day, be sure to reach out to your pediatrician for assistance.
Separation Anxiety Causes
In the larger scheme of things, the exact cause of separation anxiety is unknown. All we know is that it’s part of a child’s developmental stage, when they are gaining self-awareness of themselves and their surroundings.
- Loss – going from one mother to another in the first few days of life can be very traumatic and stressful for a newborn. It’s a lot for their little brain to process. This can cause them to grieve and need more time than normal to adjust to their new environment.
- Family History – with open adoption being the new norm in the industry, medical records and health history of your newborn is at your disposal. You also have a line of communication to your child’s birth mother. With these two things, you can easily learn about your baby’s family history and see what genetic dispositions they may have.
- Overprotective parenting – newborns are helpless without you. They are completely dependent on you to get all of their needs met. However, they also need time to learn things on their own as they grow. Overprotecting your baby can cause them to develop an unhealthy attachment, which can provoke separation anxiety if not resolved correctly.
Separation Anxiety and Adoption
If your newborn is experiencing separation anxiety, be as calm and as patient as you can. Your child’s constant need for assurance can be physically and mentally draining, but it can also be a good sign, too. It means your baby is bonding to you, and feels safe when you are around. This, in turn, shows that you are being a good parent. Don’t stop telling them how much you love them, and how you’re going to be their parent forever.
All of this can sound pretty daunting, but don’t worry. This too shall pass. Everything is going to be ok. Separation anxiety is something that all babies experience, and in most cases don’t require any medical attention. Be gentle with yourself and your child. Reach out to other adoptive parents around you, and ask how they got through it. Make an appointment with your pediatrician to ensure that your baby stays healthy and meets all of his or her required milestones. You got this.
Adoption Choices of Oklahoma
If you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of Oklahoma. You may visit our website here or call 405-794-7500 (Oklahoma City) or 918-982-6220 (Tulsa).
Support Adoption Choices
Adoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.
However, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.
About the Author
Rachel Robertson is a published journalist, book editor, certified Publishing Specialist, and aspiring novelist. She graduated from Central Washington University (CWU) in March 2011, having found her writing voice within the Creative Nonfiction genre and grew to work as a freelance book editor for small presses all across the United States.
In June 2018, she embarked on an internship with Virginia Frank and came on board with Adoption Choices Inc., Not for Profit 501(c)(3), in December 2018. Between her mutual passion with adoption and surrogacy, and her own personal history with adoption, Rachel is excited to research and share topics each week that will spread awareness and better serve the faithful patrons of Adoption Choices Inc.
When Rachel isn’t haunting her local Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, she’s avidly pouring over her Writer’s Digest subscription or cozying up with a cup of tea and a book. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her beloved wife and Border Collie.
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“Excessive Infant Crying & Irritability: Is It Caused by Anxious, Moody Parents?” Excessive Infant Crying & Irritability: Is It Caused by Anxious, Moody Parents?, www.parentingscience.com/infant-crying-and-parenting-stress.html.
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“Separation Anxiety Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 8 May 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/separation-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20377455.
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