Since the beginning of 2020 many have been impacted either by the Covid-19 pandemic or the measures that have been enacted to contain it. For many families, the boundaries of home and work life have been blurred and routines have been substantially disrupted. Parents, teachers and children really looking forward to the re-opening of the schools. Kids are looking forward to seeing their friends, to being back in a learning environment with dedicated teachers and the reassurance of the familiar structure within a educational setting. Teachers are looking forward to in-person teaching and interacting with the children. Parents are looking forward to entrusting the pedagogical engagement back to the professionals.
Yet, it should be acknowledged that these hopes and positive emotions may also co-exist with somewhat negative feelings. Separation anxiety is a normal and kids may experience it at many stages of their development and it may last through to the elementary years. In this time of unprecedented change, when children have been getting used to spending days and nights with their parents due to quarantine measures, it seems likely that we will see an increase in separation anxiety as children are returning to school.
As your child is finally returning to their classroom, separation anxiety is a normal feeling and it can come and go as children develop and circumstances change. Rest assured that in most cases eventually child will get used to being back in school but in the meantime, here are some strategies to support your child in their upcoming transition.
Consider these tips to make any separation easier.
As the time comes that to prepare for the start of school, practice being apart. This might mean leaving the child in the presence of a trusted caregiver while you run an errand or head out to work for a while. Share the schedule with your child in advance, so they know what to expect. Talk about what is coming up and what to expect at school, so your child is not caught unawares.
2. Read together and talk about uncomfortable feelings.
There are some fabulous books that emphasise that love and connection endure even if there is physical separation. Some of these include “The Invisible String” or “The Kissing Hand”. Another book which emphasises accessing internal resources and choices, is “I am Ok”.
3. Be calm and reassure
Your child will take his cues from you. Think about what you might be projecting if you are anxious or worried about sending your child off. Model being calm consistent as you send your child to nursery or school, but allow for some control and consider giving your child limited choices, such as asking “would you like to take the bus or would you like me to take you to school?”
Remember, that separation anxiety is a normal behaviour and that with the recent changes in routine some regression to earlier stages can be expected. Separation anxiety can be expressed through tears, clinginess and anger as well as developing some physical symptoms such as tummy aches. If you and your child are continuing to be challenged during separations, talk to your child’s teacher and reach out to professional to get some more targeted strategies.