It’s been over a year since the pandemic hit the pause button on our daily life. Thanks to the lockdown, most of us have been working from the confines of our homes. Children, too, have been attending schools online, and in most cases, have barely ventured outside unless absolutely necessary. However, gradually over the last few weeks, offices and schools have been actively planning on opening again. Most of the students from older classes have already returned to school, at least for a few hours each week.
With schools reopening, there is another problem that kids are facing — separation anxiety. Having been cooped up for over a year, this sudden switch to offline school can cause children much chagrin. This is understandable, and given the current situation, there is no denying that it can take a toll on your child as well. Here’s what you can do to help your child through all that separation anxiety, so they can enjoy the best phase of their life, that is, their childhood!
Don’t Dismiss Your Child’s Feeling
Children tend to experience a certain level of anxiety and stress when separated from their parents or caregivers, even if it is for a brief period. Times are tough; the whole world is grappling with a pandemic. Even under normal circumstances, when a child has to begin schooling, they tend to feel apprehensive and anxious. So, do not dismiss their worries. Instead, validate their feelings.
Assure them that you understand what they are feeling and that you too can relate to their sadness and worry. But also speak to them about how excited you are for their new beginning. Tell them how it would be to meet new friends and learn new things. Normalize what they are going through, and let them know that other children will be feeling the same way, and they are not the only ones. Explain what school is, and tell them that it is a period of learning, after which they will be back home just as usual.
Follow A Strict Routine
Children tend to work better when there is a routine in place. It may help if you set a specific time for their daily activities, such as breakfast, school time, nap time, evening snack, play hours, bath time, and bedtime. When every day is unpredictable, they may experience some amount of restlessness and anxiety. However, when they know that a specific routine is in place, your child will know what to expect. It offers a sense of comfort and familiarity and eliminates stress (1). So put in the effort to slowly set such a routine in order if you haven’t done it already.
Encourage Positive Thinking And Affirmations
It may help if you encourage your child to develop a positive mindset. Teach them to say and believe in positive thoughts and statements such as “I am ready to learn new things”, “I am smart and brave”, “school is so exciting, and I will make great friends”. You could make them say these things every morning as they wake up or on their way to school when you drive them. Positive affirmations can have a lot of benefits, some of which include an increase in confidence levels, better self-esteem, and an improved sense of well-being (2).
Talk About The Numerous Possibilities At School
School is a gateway to so many possibilities. It paves the way for learning new challenges, fun activities, and exciting relationships. Talk to your child about your own experiences of school. Show them videos of how school is essential and fun at the same time. The whole schooling experience can be an anxiety-inducing situation for your child so they won’t be looking at the positives as such. As you remind them of how fun school can be, chances are they would also start fancying the idea in their mind.
Take Care Of Yourself Too
Oftentimes, children aren’t the only ones who go through anxiety and stress; parents go through this as well. If you feel overwhelmed or anxious, confide in someone you trust or are comfortable with, such as your partner, a friend, or a family member. If you feel like separation anxiety is coming in the way of your daily functioning, do not shy away from seeking help. For you to be able to help your child, you need to be in a good place mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Gift Your Child Back To School Merchandise
When you gift your child with brand new back-to-school accessories like pencil boxes, school bags, water bottles, and other merchandise, the excitement in them peaks. Children would love these things more if it matches their interests, be it superhero themes or their favorite cartoon characters. After all, everyone likes to show off their brand new buys, why would children be any different. However, we aren’t suggesting you spend a fortune to make this happen. The gesture is what matters. Besides, you will be able to find many cool merchandise online at very reasonable prices. So go ahead and surprise your little one with some uber-cool merchandise that would make them super excited for when school starts.
What Does Separation Anxiety Look Like?
People experience separation anxiety in different ways. If you suspect that your child is suffering from separation anxiety, watch out for the following signs (3):
- They may begin to cry or throw tantrums when you talk about school or take them to school.
- They may refuse to participate in school activities.
- They may have trouble sleeping or experience nightmares.
- They may express worrisome thoughts or feelings continuously throughout the day.
- You have trouble getting them to do their homework.
- You might even observe physical symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, and fatigue.
A lot of children face separation anxiety when they start school. Since school is reopening after a long time, most of them are bound to feel apprehensive. Be patient with your child and help them get through this with ease. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below!
- The Importance of Creating Habits and Routine
- Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation
- Separation Anxiety