This week I was struck by the increase and intensity of separation anxiety our little ones are experiencing. Parents are doing a wonderful job protecting them from the stressors of pandemic life, but the changes in routine alone are enough to make our little loved ones feel unsettled. The recent shift from stay-at home to re-opening results in fluctuating schedules for many parents and an increase in uncertainty for all. Many children are reaching out to their parents for reassurance during this time and become fearful when separated from their sense of security.
6 strategies to successfully support your little ones through this process:
1) Fill their bucket with together-time. Set aside a few moments each day, free of distractions, to completely focus on your child and share love. Read books together in a living room tent. Snuggle under a blanket together and talk about your favorite things.
2) Play come-together games. Run toward each other with excitement ending in a hug or spin! Wrap yourselves up together in a blanket. Be a 3-legged monster together. Make a blanket parachute and come together under the blanket as it lands on you.
3) Make sure your child hears you before you leave the room. Get on eye level, touch them on the arm, and tell them where you are going and when you will be back. Regain your child’s attention when you return so they know you are back.
4) Use visual reminders to let your child know the daily schedule and clearly indicate when you will be leaving and coming back. Pictures are great for all kids, but kids who can read will likely be alright with a written list. Review the schedule a day in advance. Update and review the schedule when changes occur.
5) Let your child know how they can communicate with you while you are away. Perhaps your child can communicate with you directly on a phone or video call. Perhaps your child can make a video for you that you can watch later or leave you a voice message. Your child could draw you a picture or make you a surprise while you are away.
6) When you come back home after being away, make sure you give your child a moment of true connection and joy when you reunite. If they made you something or left you a voice or video message, make sure you tell them how much you love it.