Separation Anxiety occurs when a child, pre-teen or teenager worries about being away from their parent or carer. It is much more common in young children, and normally starts around six months of age. It can then later make it hard for them to settle into nursery, school or with a childminder. This later can create a low trust feeling with other adults, for e.g. grandparents, aunties/uncles, family friends etc. This can much later create barriers and obstacles of anxiety and low trust towards: sleepovers with friends or relatives, or outings with school/college, friends, relatives, or even university. Separation Anxiety can also happen if a family member becomes very sick, or eventually passes away. Another trigger for Separation Anxiety can be fear of leaving parent or care giver to attend school or college, due to bullying.
One of the reasons why Separation Anxiety it starts so early is that, when a baby is very young (e.g. 6 months old or under) they have not yet developed an effective way of thinking, 'although mummy has only gone into the kitchen, she will be back'. They are still developing their sense of memory and time-scales. Further, young babies can only focus and fully identify mothers face, when up very close. This lack of early facial recognition development and memory, is why when often adults talk to a baby they slow down and soften their language to a typical soft, fluffy, baby talk.
Older children who experience Separation Anxiety may be feeling insecure about something, for example if there are changes happening at home. This can also be triggered if a parent or grandparent becomes very ill, goes into hospital or even dies. Finally, Separation Anxiety can also occur as a direct result of parental arguing, parental physical abuse, parental conflict, parental separation, divorce, or new parent partner.