When schools recently reopened, many parents felt a welcome sense of relief. Juggling work, childcare and home-schooling had seemed to go on for an eternity. Despite its challenges, inevitably it had brought many of us closer together again. So, as we waved them off at the school gates, there was a part of us that wanted to whoop and holler with joy. Yet there was also a distinct sadness that such a unique time together had come to an end. If we’re feeling some separation anxiety, then we can be sure that many children will also experience that too as we adapt to the new school routine.
Kids Separation Anxiety
Children have had mixed feelings about the lockdown. Some have relished being off school, some have missed the structure, routine and their friends. Whilst many children have taken the news of coronavirus in their stride others feel great anxiety about catching it or passing it onto loved ones.
During this period of uncertainty, children have looked to parents to act as a constant and supply the security that they so desperately need. They’ve had to readjust to massive changes in their life, from school to home-school to school again.
Signs of Anxiety in Children
According to the NHS website, when young children feel anxious, they cannot always understand or express what they are feeling. You may notice that they:
- become irritable, tearful or clingy
- have difficulty sleeping
- wake in the night
- start wetting the bed
- have bad dreams
In older children you may notice that they:
- lack confidence to try new things or seem unable to face simple, everyday challenges
- find it hard to concentrate
- have problems with sleeping or eating
- have angry outbursts
- have a lot of negative thoughts, or keep thinking that bad things are going to happen
- start avoiding everyday activities, such as seeing friends, going out in public or going to school
How to Reduce Anxiety in Kids
it's important to talk to your child about their anxiety or worries. Try to have one on one time with your child and do an activity they like. This creates space for you to open up a conversation with them. Reflect on how it's been for them to be away for so long, and ask if there's anything in particular they're enjoying, looking forward to or worried about.
Reassure them and show them you understand how they feel. Explain that many children are feeling the same and that what they’re feeling is entirely understandable.
If they’re reluctant to talk about it, try asking them to draw or paint a picture of what being back at school is like. Another idea is to purchase a worry monster (available from various stockists). They can write down their worries and feed them to their worry monster each day. Make sure you read the instructions though.
Teach Them to Recognise the Signs of Anxiety
Encourage your child to manage their anxiety and ask for help when they need it.
If your child is old enough, it may help to explain what anxiety is and the physical effects it has on our bodies. You could describe anxiety as being like a wave that builds up and then ebbs away again or like a cloud that passes by.
Practice simple relaxation techniques with your child. Get them to take 3 deep, slow breaths, breathing in for a count of 3 and out for 3. Some children enjoy journaling, a reflective activity where you get to write down thoughts and ideas. You'll find more guidance for helping children with anxiety on the Young Minds website.
Develop a Quick Goodbye Ritual
Keep things quick and leave without fanfare. Tell your child you’re leaving and that you will return, then go—don’t stall or make it a bigger deal than it is. Difficult as it is, try not to be overprotective or anxious yourself. Children sense this and feed off your fears
A New Tool to Combat Separation Anxiety
Aromatherapy has been used for centuries by people suffering anxiety. Used as part of a de-stress ritual, it can have powerful benefits. Apply our De-STRESS Aromatherapy Balm to your child at the school gates and ask them to inhale deeply three times. This will help your child feel calm and in control. The more regularly you use it, the quicker you’ll create a cue to relax.
Repeat again when they arrive home from school to help them destress from their day.
When to Get Help
If separation anxiety is excessive enough to interfere with normal activities like school and friendships, and lasts for months rather than days, it may be a sign of a larger problem called Separation Anxiety Disorder. Consider speaking to your child’s school, your GP, local children’s centre and/or a child psychologist if appropriate.Additionally, parents and carers can get help and advice about children's mental health from Young Minds' free parent helpline on 0808 802 5544. Check the website for operational hours.