Learning Points: Will it be hard for children to let go after lockdown?

Time is precious. One of the positives of this pandemic is that it forced us to stop, slow down, and spend time with our family.
Learning Points: Will it be hard for children to let go after lockdown?

TIME is precious. One of the positives of this pandemic is that it forced us to stop, slow down, and spend time with our family.

The pandemic has illuminated aspects of my own life that had concerned me. I wasn’t seeing my children enough. Work was dominating my life. Of course, with bills to pay it’s easy to talk yourself into a mindset of work, work, work.

But you can’t get time back and I didn’t want to be saying, years down the line, that I shouldn’t have been so consumed with work. I have heard that so many times in my clinic.

And it is a very easy thing to happen. The years slip by and you have missed your children growing up right in front of you. So that is the real lesson for me out of this whole catastrophe. Yet, there is a downside: Now that we have become used to being around each other so much, what will happen when we begin to move back into our old way of life?

How will the children react when I’m not at home all day and they have to go to school? I worry about that. I have received letters from concerned mothers, asking what they can do to help ease the transition back to being away from their children. It is really important for parents to manage this change and help their children to regulate their feelings.

Our ultimate goal, as parents, is to launch confident and content children into the world, who can make the right decisions when no one is looking. So we have to be careful, as parents, that they do not become too dependent on us. It is a trap we can fall into.

In our bid to protect our children, we make them dependent on us for everything. This is not a viable way for your child to view you. Ask yourself this question: Whose needs am I meeting when I remove all obstacles from my child?

Separation anxiety is when a child develops a serious emotional problem, characterised by severe distress, on being separated from their primary care-giver. This occurs when a child feels unsafe. Nothing has disrupted children’s routine more than Covid-19.

School stopped suddenly, mom and dad are home all the time, and the children can’t see their grandparents or their friends: These all reflect danger. It is no wonder children may be feeling very unsafe.

We have all been a little more stressed than usual. So, it is vitally important that children begin to see that they are safe and that life is going back to how it was before March 12, before the schools closed and the lockdown began.

We must help them to translate the events in a way that prevents them from perceiving everything as a threat to their safety.

Before you can help your child with separation anxiety, you must understand the root cause or causes of your child’s distress. Generally, this type of anxiety is caused by a change in environment. So, perhaps the idea of you going back to work might provoke your child’s sense of threat or fear.

If that is the case, you should ask yourself: What is it about me that they do not want to be separated from?

Am I their sense of security? Why do they not react this way with my partner? It is difficult, during these times, not to be an over-protective parent. However, parents and children can feed one another’s anxieties.

If your child senses that you are anxious about going back to work, this has the potential to manifest itself in their reaction to you leaving the home.

Make sure that when you talk about leaving the house, the conversation is very positive. You could even start by going to the shop without them, to gently ease them into living without you for short periods. Give them a time frame and make sure you come back when you say you will. This will create a sense of trust.

If your childcare is in the form of a crèche, connect with the other parents and do a video call with their friends to remind them of the fun they used to have without you.

Moving back to our normal way of life is going to be challenging for many parents. Try to avoid feeling guilty because your child has to go to childcare.

We all, generally, have to work to make sure our family is safe and secure.

None of us like to see our children upset, but we are preparing them for the real world and we must not remove all stress from them. They must learn the skills required to regulate their own feelings and emotions.

And if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that we must be resilient to successfully navigate the long and winding road of life.

More in this section


The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up