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Separation anxiety for parents



How to navigate the unease of your kids returning to school

How to navigate the unease of your kids returning to school


Careful what you wish for. Parents who rejoiced to learn their kids’ school was once again having on-site teaching in the era of Covid may be unpleasantly surprised to learn their new freedom comes with a price: separation anxiety.

According to clinical psychologist Ilyse Dobrow DiMarco, Ph.D., this is normal and, thankfully, treatable. She would know: in Motherly.com, she writes about her own experiences as a mother of two who, like many parents last March, was forced to become a stay-at-home parent and early child educator overnight. Suffice to say, it was taxing, and she looked forward to it being over.

However, a few weeks into getting her wish, DiMarco writes: “When my sons leave in the morning, I feel unsettled and twitchy. I try to focus on work but my mind drifts to what my kids might be doing and whether they're being safe, knowing that I have zero control over this.”

Upon realizing she is, in fact, experiencing symptoms of separation anxiety, DiMarco reaches out to expert child psychologist Dr. Rebecca Schrag Hershberg, author of The Tantrum Survival Guide. In an effort to help other parents suffering similarly, they’ve adapted strategies for kids with difficulty separating from their parents to tips for helping parents who have difficulty separating from their kids.

READ MORE: 10 activities to encourage mindfulness

Among other tips, they advise mindfulness, rather than fighting the anxiety, accept it and let it “wash over you like a wave.” Accept that you have no control. Also, speaking of mindfulness, in the same way kids take cues from you, you can now take cues from them. For example, if they’re outwardly chilling, you can probably tap into that.

Acknowledging connection is another strategy. Leave notes in backpacks, get identical temporary tattoos. Also, be on the lookout for your own reassurance seeking. In the same way kids with separation anxiety might repeatedly ask questions, a parent with separation anxiety might feel compelled to pepper a child with questions about their day. Apparently, this not only annoys kids, it also actually contributes to parental separation anxiety.

Hang in there!



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