How to Handle Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety, or “Clinging” is a very natural part of a child’s development. While clinging is not a discipline problem, it can be just as draining on a parent or caregiver. Here are some suggestions on how to deal with a clinging child:


  • It is normal for a child to hold or cling to adults, especially when they feel afraid or insecure.

  • Children often cling when they are separated from their parents. It is important for other adults involved with the children to do all that they can to help them feel safe and loved.

  • The more hugging and holding you do, the safer and secure the child will feel.

  • Interesting activities and children to play with can be a great distraction when a child feels clingy, but do not force a child to do something he does not want to do.

  • Different children need different amounts of hugging, holding or being near you.

  • Do not belittle a clinging child. Just expect that some day she will no longer need to cling, and you might miss the clingy child you once had.

  • Remember not to take a child’s need to cling personally. You have not done anything as a parent or caregiver to cause this.

Suggestions on how to handle separation anxiety

  1. If a child is clinging because of separation anxiety, be sure to tell him where you are going if you must go out of his site.

  2. Do not get angry if a child is always following you. Stay calm and take time to hug or hold her and then help her to find a friend or activity to get involved with. Help the child become involved in the activity and then slowly withdraw as the child seems more secure. Remain in her site.

  3. Develop trust with the child by being honest, not sneaking out of the door or lying to him. Tell him that you are leaving but will be back, be sure to use concrete examples.

  4. Let the child move away from you when she is ready, rather than you move away from her.

  5. Try to give your child special time alone with you each day, doing what he wants to do, not what you want to do.

  6. Watch the her carefully for times when she does not cling. Think about what causes this independent and try to include these things in your day together. Help her gain confidence and a sense of control by encouraging her to be successful at independent activities.

Little Investigators Preschool

1195 West 11th Street

Tracy, CA 95376

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