Fear of abandonment is a type of anxiety that many children experience. It can be due to a traumatic experience where they were abandoned or due to other reasons that instilled this fear in them.
Sometimes a fear of abandonment is associated with separation anxiety. Separation anxiety, however, is not uncommon in infants between 10 months and 3 years of age. It becomes a cause for concern if the fear does not wane even after this period.
Abandonment fears can also continue into adulthood, where it can impact friendships, romantic relationships, and professional lives.
If you are looking for resources to help or want to talk to an online therapist about mental health and parenting, consider visiting BetterHelp.
Signs of Abandonment Issues
If the child becomes highly anxious knowing that their caregiver is going somewhere, this could be a sign of abandonment fear, especially if the anxiety is coupled with panic.
Fear of being alone
Most kids have a slight fear of being left alone for long periods of time, but if a child seems especially anxious about being left alone, at night or during the day, they could be experiencing abandonment fears.
Low self-esteem and isolation
Abandonment fears can be a difficult experience for a child and may cause them to isolate themselves from others, or just kids their own age, and have low self-esteem.
Abandonment fears can be caused by many different things, and they are often traumatic experiences, such as divorces or deaths in the family. This is why the approach to helping a child with these fears must be very gentle and mindful.
Ways to make your child feel more at ease and start on a healing path
Create a safe place for them to talk
It is important to validate and listen to your child’s thoughts and concerns. They will know that you hear them and understand their feelings, which can give them more room to unravel their own feelings and start to understand them better.
Suppressing such conversations tends to cause more harm than good.
Introduce good mentors and role models
Low self-esteem can impact a child’s life in many ways, and inhibit them from just being a kid.
In such a case, it is important that they build connections with adults that you can trust that affirm the child’s abilities and character.
They may need more trustworthy people to encourage them, aside from you. Some things, like compliments, sink in better when they don’t come from a parent.
For your child to feel heard and understood, it can help if you share your own experiences that may mirror theirs. Do not hesitate to open up about your own faults and embarrassing experiences to show your child that you are not perfect either.
Engage them in activities
If you are leaving your child with a family member or babysitter, try to arrange some sort of activity that your child can immediately become engaged with.
Being idle can create more room for anxiety and fearfulness; consider introducing a new toy, a coloring book, or a game.
Do not exaggerate goodbyes
If you yourself seem anxious when saying goodbye, it can make your child a lot more fearful. Be brief, and emphasize that you will be away temporarily.
Find subtle ways to let your child feel independent
There are times when your children may naturally keep themselves entertained without thinking about your absence. If they wake up from a nap and are not actively looking for you, then allow some time for them to play or be occupied before going in to see them.
Keeping an eye out for such instances can give your child the space they need to learn that being on their own is not so bad.
However, if they are clearly very anxious, then you probably do not want to force them into an even more stressful situation.
Children who experience abandonment fears require support and patience from their caregivers. Building a firm support system around them while also letting them experience new things can help them overcome their fears in a healthy way.
Over time, with the right kind of help, they can start to feel more confident by themselves and realize that they can gain control over their abandonment fears.