How to handle separation anxiety at boarding schools


Inevitably, every young person will reach a time in their lives when they are first separated from their parents for an extended length of time. At first, this may be a cause of awkward feelings or undue stress. Often times, the child will have largely grown up in the family home, with time away from parents being limited to attending school or spending time with friends. A longer period away from home will mean taking greater responsibility for one’s self, which is appropriate as adolescents transition into adulthood. However, separation anxiety may nonetheless still occur for natural reasons.

Separation anxiety is actually a fairly common anxiety disorder. In minors under the age of 18, this condition usually occurs for a minimum period of four weeks. The symptoms may manifest themselves in the form of panic attacks. However, these anxious responses will be beyond what is seen as normal for this age group. When separated from the attachment figure, the child may experience repeated distress over time. He may be reluctant to leave home for a number of reasons, such as going to school, because of such fears. Those with such anxiety may also find themselves worrying about unforeseen events that may separate them from the attachment figure, or instances in which this person may be harmed. Nightmares, as well as physical symptoms of illness when separation is imminent, may also occur.

In order for such symptoms to constitute this condition, there must be deterioration of one’s school, work or social life. There must also not be signs of another disorder that would better explain such behavior. Many times, these indicators lead the child to express school refusal. However, this is also a sign of selective mutism. Panic attacks are likely to occur regardless of the age of the person. Separation anxiety is considered normal in most children until they reach three to four years of age.

There does not appear to be much difference between males and females regarding how symptoms present themselves. Though adults with separation anxiety need not experience the disorder as a child, many of them do. The physical signs, which may include nausea, stomach aches or heart palpitations, most often present themselves in older children and adolescents. Separation anxiety may in turn lead to other serious ailments such as depression and substance abuse. Truancy is a natural result of the tendency to avoid such situations.

Regarding boarding academies

A boarding academy, such as White River Academy, offers a great opportunity for an adolescent to improve behavioral difficulties, consider different careers and receive a higher standard of education. However, a parent will naturally want to be sure that their son is not experiencing signs of the disorder, as such changes may be a significant adjustment. After all, your teen may be quite used to their standard, daily routine at school and home. This naturally will involve friends that your child is close to and he may be hesitant to suddenly be apart from them. Though depression is possible because such sudden changes, parents should rest assured that this is the last response we’d like your son to have.

In cases of separation anxiety, the adolescent may experience physical symptoms or trouble concentrating as a result of their new environment. These teens may be more likely to demonstrate clingy or fearful behavior. However, parents can rest assured that our staff will do all we can to ease the process for new initiates. This includes teaming up with more experienced students that will do their part to show a new one the ropes and ensure he is more comfortable. Our staff is always ready to listen to any concerns the boy may have. Of course, we also allow appropriate time for the boy to contact parents to ease such worries, as well as receive letters from home.


The most effective treatment for separation anxiety, in and of itself, has been shown to be cognitive behavioral therapy. This may be used in conjunction with antidepressants. It will be important to treat school refusal as soon as possible, as not attending school may become a progressively harder habit to break. Because of this condition, as many as half of sufferers may not be able to graduate high school.

By treating separation anxiety earlier on, the child may be better prepared at an older age for an experience such as a boarding academy. Yet it is clear that not all children may experience separation anxiety at the same developmental stages. Such symptoms may be determined by a number of different factors, such as environment and how a child is raised. We understand that it will be important to feel that a family is making the right choice for their son. Our goal is to make sure that your son is properly taking constructive steps toward the independence of adulthood, which will naturally mean overcoming such tendencies eventually. For more information on whether White River Academy is an appropriate choice, please call 866-520-0905 today.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top