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Back to Class Separation Anxiety

Finally, classes are resuming. But after weeks at home, your child is reluctant to leave your side.
By Marianne Lagutaine

Nearly everybody has been impacted by the measures put in place to mitigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the most notable has been the lengthy closure of schools. But with social distancing guidelines relaxing, returning to school is now a possibility.

Children are excited to see their friends, teachers are keen to provide instruction in person, and parents are more than pleased to leave pedagogy to the experts. But it should be acknowledged that these hopes and positive emotions may also co-exist with negative feelings.

Separation Anxiety is Normal

Separation anxiety is normal and kids may experience it at many stages of their development, even through their elementary school years. It can be expressed through tears, clinginess and anger as well as developing physical symptoms such as tummy aches. With children now being used to spending days and nights at home with their parents due to isolation measures, it is very possible that we will see an increase in separation anxiety as classes resume.

If your child is feeling anxious about leaving your side and finally returning to class, rest assured that it will likely soon pass. Your child will recognize that they can always return home and soon settle back into a comfortable school routine. In the meantime, here are some strategies to support your child in their journey towards independence again.

Consider these tips to make any separation easier.

Practice, practice, practice. 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.

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”.

Be calm and reassuring. Your child will take his or her 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 school. You may allow for some control – 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 and with the recent changes in routine some regression to earlier stages can be expected. 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.