How do I help my young child deal with separation anxiety after so long at home?
For a child in reception or Year 1, it’s likely to feel like starting school all over again. “It will be tricky for some, especially the children who are sensitive souls,” says the clinical psychologist Dr Polly Waite of the University of Oxford. “The key is to normalise it and be empathic and understanding, but at the same time getting your child back into school at the same time as everyone else. You won’t do them any favours if you decide they’re going back a few days later or maybe just for afternoons.”
Say something like: “I know it’s going to be tricky on Monday, but we’re going to school just like we used to. How about I make your favourite breakfast?”
“Make it clear there’s not really a negotiation to be had and focus on the positives about what they used to enjoy before,” Waite advises. “Don’t spend too long focusing on the anxiety. If you can figure out exactly what they’re worrying about, you can correct it, but then it’s a matter of taking action rather than talking about the worry itself. Talk about what we can do to make it better, and what we can cook for tea when you get home. Have little rewards for brave behaviour.” If they haven’t settled after a week or two or it’s getting worse, seek support from the school.
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