Dealing with separation anxiety post lockdown
After the first lockdown, many parents found that their usually, confident children had developed some separation anxiety once they were heading back to school and nursery and speaking with parents it seems, particularly in younger children, that this will be the case again after this lockdown.
Here are my tips to help but it is important to remember that how you react will impact the frequency, intensity and duration of your child’s behaviour so try and remain calm and be consistent.
1) Talk positively about it
Talking to your child about what is going to happen can help minimise their anxiety. Explain that things are likely staying as they were before Christmas, so no new routine to learn. Point out the positives like seeing their friends and teachers and reassure them that school/nursery is only allowed to open because they feel it is safe to do so and you would not send them if wasn’t.
Remind your child of their usual routine on school/nursery days. So what time they are up and dressed, eat breakfast and what time you leave the house and perhaps do a practice run a couple of days before so that there is less panic on the day which will help ease their anxiety.
3) Allow your child to be upset
It is never nice seeing your child upset and often we tell them not to cry but actually, allowing their emotions to be expressed will help alleviate the stress.
Acknowledge that it hard to say goodbye and accept that they will feel sad when you leave.
If you think it might help and not upset them further, try leaving a note (sometimes a joke is good idea) in their lunchbox or school bag to let them know that you are thinking of them.
4) Keep it short and sweet
As difficult as it is when your child is clinging to you wailing, try and keep your goodbye short and sweet. Do not sneak off without them noticing as it will only make the situation worse and it will break their trust.
The longer you hang around the more intense it will become, the harder it will be for the teachers and the more disruptive it will be for the whole class. Remember, teachers are used to dealing with this, so trust them to make your child feel safe and secure.
Never go back, no matter how hard it is. Instead wait 15/20 minutes and give the school/nursery a call if you feel you need to.
5) Praise and plan
It is important that you acknowledge how brave your child has been for getting on with their day when you know it was really hard for them and that you give them some praise for doing so. Praising them will give their self esteem a boost and help build their confidence.
Planning something nice to do together on the weekend will give them an incentive to keep trying but also it will be something for them to look forward to.
It is likely that you will also have your own anxieties but modelling resilience will hugely help your child to be resilient so try to not let your own emotions take over.
Remember that you are doing an important job in helping to teach your child how to deal with their emotions and that it will help them in many ways throughout their lives.