Navigating post-pandemic separation anxiety in children

Posted at 7:17 AM, May 12, 2020

As the state starts to reopen, many people are planning to return to work over the next few months. However, since parents have been home so much lately, young children may face separation anxiety during this time.

Dr. Catherine Martin, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Kentucky, says this could especially impact young children who haven't started school yet or kids going through a big transition, like about to start middle school.

Separation anxiety could even affect children who may have never shown signs of it before the pandemic. The main signs are crying or being upset, but there are others too.

"Nightmares or trouble sleeping. Any kind of changes in regular routines can be keys, like maybe not eating as well," said Dr. Martin.

So, how can families start navigating this potential issue? Dr. Martin says simply talking to children about any worries they have is the best place to start.

"What are your fears? What are your concerns? How can we make sure we allay those as best as we can?'" said Dr. Martin.

When the time comes to be out of the home more often, come up with a plan if your child struggles with the change.

"Can the parent set up a time to connect with them while they're at work? Maybe a phone call or maybe even a video chat, so that the child can be reassured that their parents are still nearby and safe," said Dr. Martin.

When you're back home for the day, see how your child felt while you were gone or if there were any problems. Simple communication can be the comfort needed to get through the transition.

Dr. Martin says it's not just kids; parents could also feel anxiety when it's time to return to work. She says again, communication is critical. Don't dwell on those feelings, but kids sense more than we think, so it's okay to be open about them.

Dr. Martin has some more insight on handling stress and anxiety during the pandemic.