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Four Ways To Ease Separation Anxiety

Children crave consistency. And that has been hard to find in 2020 with new normals and pivots becoming part of our daily vocabulary.

As the COVID-19 quarantine continues to lift, many families now face another transition with parents returning to work and children returning to day care centers, camps, and other summer plans. 

As Ohio’s sole public funding source dedicated to child abuse and child neglect prevention, the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund (OCTF) has four strategies to make this transition as easy as possible for you and the children you love. 

Put Time On Your Side:

Children need time to adapt to big changes. There’s a reason schools, sports teams, and other children’s programming always have a preview day or practice. It helps lessen anxiety for the parents and the children because they will better know what to expect.  

Talk to children in advance about upcoming changes to their routine. Give them time to process the anticipated change before it occurs. This can help ease some of that separation anxiety, especially for younger children who have been home for three months and barely remember the ways things were before COVID. 

Know What You Don’t Know:

How many times have we told children to always tell the truth? Parents and care providers need to live those words when talking with their children about Ohio’s reopening.

  • We don’t know when everyone in a class may come back. 
  • We don’t know how everything will be different. 
  • We don’t know if there will be a second wave of COVID.
  • We don’t know when there might be a vaccine. 

Accuracy is important. It’s OK to not have an answer. Being honest, accurate and age-appropriate are the most important part of your conversation with the children in your care. 

While children crave certainty, they also want the truth. When parents and care providers offer age appropriate information, it’s incredible to see how thoughtful and responsible children can be.  Regrettably, they’ve had to deal with many challenging conversations this year; children are incredibly resourceful and resilient.

Over Communicate:

As parents, we know that when you fail to offer clear instruction, things can go off the rails in a hurry. Reintegration into the working world and summer schedule requires several levels of conversation.

  • Children should understand that there are different rules for different houses and businesses that must be respected. 
  • Parents should talk with other parents and be on the same page about what kind of rules should be in place when adolescents or teens meet. 
  • Grandparents should understand expectations for visits might be different after three months of either not seeing your grandchildren at all or being together every day. 
  • Care providers, camp leaders, coaches, and others should understand your expectations and vice versa. 

The one thing that hasn’t changed over the last three months is that we’re all distracted with technology, world events, and a long to-do list. Repeating your expectations over and over might be annoying to you, but it helps everyone better understand what needs to be done to help keep everyone safe and comfortable.

Do Not Feel Alone:

The first time you took your child to daycare was likely stressful and included tears from you and your child. It was for me too, but we all eventually got through it. 

How? We reassured our children, integrated them into the classroom, found a way to walk away, and eventually ripped off that separation Band-Aid. It wasn’t easy, but we did it. We probably will have to repeat that process again, and it is quite possible parents might be impacted more in this transition than children. That’s normal. 

Millions of parents are going through the same thing. It’s OK to talk about it. It’s also important to know things will get better. The Ohio Children’s Trust Fund is here to help with countless free resources that take a deep dive on common questions.

Consistency may be harder to come by now than in the past, but there are still ways to find it in a way that helps you and the children you care for. A little pivoting now will go a long way to bringing back a renewed sense of normalcy for you and your family.