How to avoid separation anxiety in young kids when life begins to return to normal

Connecticut Families

EAST HAMPTON, Conn. (WTNH) — “Every day is different; they’re screaming now, I don’t know if you can hear them,” laughed Christen LaRochelle, echoing the scene in many houses right now.

Life in this period of isolation sure has its challenges but, all in all, her girls, ages 5 and 2, have been pretty happy to be home during the pandemic.

“I think they’re really reveling in having all this time with us,” said LaRochelle. “Kids are resilient, so, I think, in a lot of ways, this has been fine for them but I think the real test is going to be the adjustment period after.”

Dr. Ryan Loss of Connecticut Behavioral Health agrees.

“You’re going to have those generally anxious kids who’ve gotten really comfortable at home,” he said. “They’ve had this nice change occur where they’re seeing mom and dad a whole lot more.”

So, when life returns to normal – or even a new normal after the coronavirus crisis – and parents go back to work while kids return to school, separation anxiety could get real.

“You want to empower them,” advised Loss. “These are things they’ve done before, they have been able to cope before.”

Also, don’t coddle the kids too much. Let them work through some of it on their own, and, in advance, increase the structure.

“We want to get back in the routine of getting up early, starting to transition and prepare for what the school day will look like overall,” said Loss.

Until this happens, enjoy the time together along with the reduction in the constant running around to activities.

“It really gets us back to the old classic, ‘Leave It To Beaver’ way of things, you do a lot at home,” Loss said. “It’s not that we don’t do anything but, for lack of a better term, it’s simpler times. Even though things aren’t simple.”

He said parents should keep the dialogue going about how this won’t last forever. It’s about striking a balance in this complicated time.

“It’s definitely going to be a change after spending so much time with us to having that time away,” said LaRochelle. “Yeah, it’s going to be interesting.”

The longer this goes on – say the kids don’t return to school until the fall – the more challenging it will be for those children who’ve become really comfortable in the home routine.

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