Tips for Coping With Children’s Post-Lockdown Separation Anxiety
During lockdown, some children have become accustomed to always having their parents around and sudden changes to a child’s environment and stress, are risk factors for developing anxiety.
Some children may struggle to cope with going back to school after lockdown, steps can be taken to gradually help children cope with the change.
Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Priory’s Wellbeing Centre in Oxford, said there are some simple steps parents can take to help their children make the adjustment.
1. Parents could try talking to their young child now about all the times in the past they have had fun at the locations they will go to in the future, without their parents, reminding them of happy memories and how well they coped.
2. Talk about the things they will be doing themselves when they go back to work, and how they will enjoy it so that the child knows their parent will be safe and happy when away from them.
3. Ideally, old routines should be re-introduced gradually. Where possible parents should start separating from their child for brief periods, leaving them with one parent or an older sibling if appropriate while they pop out within lockdown rules.
4. Parents may be able to meet with people, such as the teachers, who will look after their child when lockdown ceases, so the young person can refresh their memory of how they do feel safe and comfortable around that adult too. They could even do this over a digital platform to enable some positive interaction if they cannot do it face-to-face.
5. Parents could try to encourage their child back out into the outside world again as much as possible within the rules; children meeting their friends at a park or in a garden, and encouraging them to run around, at a distance from their parent, is a good idea so they get used to not always having parents in close proximity.
For children who still suffer from anxiety at the idea of separation, Dr van Zwanenberg says:
“Parents can teach them how to calm themselves, if they are feeling nervous, by looking at calming breathing techniques online. If a child can learn to use calmly breathe when anxious, they soon learn they can manage their anxiety themselves, and bring it down quite easily, which is ‘containing’ for them”.
The Priory Group is the leading provider of behavioural care in the UK, caring for around 30,000 people a year for conditions including depression, anxiety, drugs and alcohol addiction, eating disorders and self-harming. The Group is organised into four divisions – healthcare, education and children’s services, adult care and the Middle East. The Priory Group is owned by NASDAQ-listed Acadia Healthcare, which is recognised as a global leader in behavioural health.