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Separation anxiety and going back to school

A study has found that parents could see their children suffering from separation anxiety issues when the Covid 19 lockdown measures come to an end, even if it’s never experienced before, by their child.

Children's routines have completely changed over the past few months

Nursery and school closures due to the pandemic mean youngsters are spending increased lengths of time with their parents, often in close proximity, due to social distancing measures.

When restrictions are lifted and the time comes for children to return to the classroom, separation anxiety could be a “real issue” for some families due to the large amounts of time that we’ve all spent together in the family unit.


The Coronavirus crisis is completely unprecedented

None of us have experienced like the Coronavirus crisis, it is unprecedented in modern times.None of can really say how the pandemic might contribute to the mental wellbeing of children further down the line, or how they’ll interpret the lockdown situation.

With all of these uncertainties flying around, we all need to be mindful about any potential issues with separation anxiety.

Children may have grown accustomed to being around their parents and are likely to be enjoying that connection.

Young children in particular are living through a new reality, settling into a new routine which has provided them with a safety net to escape the uncertainty that is present with the lockdown.


There's a new normal for children

Children have become accustomed to a ‘new normal’ and this is how they now passes their day. This is how they now pass their day and they can see that their family structure has changed, children can see this. Being at home with their family has been a change to their routines, that they are now adapting to. The danger occurs if this new routine changes once more, they could be left feeling quite vulnerable. Children can be unsettled by too much change in their lives, their stability feels threatened.

So, what can parents do to help? Parents may need to therefore be mindful about a degree of separation anxiety that might not have been present before, or for separation anxiety problems to return in children where parents thought they’d overcome it.


What is separation anxiety?

According to the NHS, separation anxiety typically affects children aged between six months and three years, but it can also impact on older children and even adolescents.

The unprecedented coronavirus lockdown is presenting families, potentially with separation anxiety issues for those at both primary and secondary school age.

Separation anxiety doesn’t just manifest as a refusal to leave the house – it can also result in sleep disturbance as well as physical complaints such as headaches, stomach aches and even vomiting.

Nurseries and schools could think about temporary provisions to address issues of separation anxiety when children are eventually allowed to return.

This could mean setting up discussions between families and schools and other settings in order to make the transition smooth and less overwhelming for children.

There needs to be trust between parents and schools so a collaborative plan can be created.

Schools could perhaps think about staggered returns, or if parents have the luxury of time there could be plans put in place for mums and dads to stay for an hour or so with the child in the school environment to help the transition, if needed. These measures could all help towards lessening the impact of children returning to school.

And, we shouldn’t forget that children are incredibly resilient. They may have a few wobbles to start with when they return to school, but children adapt quickly and they will find themselves back in the swing of their routines soon enough.


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