Returning to school after the summer break can be tough and daunting for children. The structure, rules, authority, academic demands and social demands overwhelm many children. As psychologists, we would say the perceived demands and stressors outweigh their ability to cope.
It can be tempting to want to reassure children that they have nothing to worry about or it will all be alright. We find that reassurance rarely helps in the longer-term. We encourage parents to help their children make sense of their fears and worries before helping them to balance the scales with some skills and competence building.
In our new series of blog posts we will cover a separate demand and give suggestions as to how to help your child with this.
First up is separation anxiety:
Separation anxiety is when a child is worried about being apart from someone they are attached to. We can easily understand this for younger children – the tears at the school gate are a clear sign. However, it is every bit as important for older children but perhaps a little harder to spot and understand.
One child starting secondary school told us us their heart hurt as they got on the train every day of their first term at secondary school.
Separation anxiety can show up as:
- worries about being disliked or feeling unsafe
- worries about not being able to attain good grades
- attracting attention of teachers for wearing the wrong uniform/makeup etc
- constant messaging parents to check in
Tips to help you child with separation anxiety:
- allow your child to touch base with you throughout the day, helping them to feel safe
- lots of rest and downtime after school and at weekends – remember how tiring it is to start a new job
- support them to develop healthy peer and teacher relationships to help hold them at school where they don’t have you
- support them to develop new organisational skills to cope without you by their side e.g stick it notes on the fridge to remember PE kit or food tech ingredients
- Touch base at the end of the day to each share how you are doing – this is particularly helpful for children that may be worried about their parent’s well-being
Next week we will cover academic and learning demands.