When my husband went away, my little one (then six) gradually became increasingly clingy when dropping him to school, to the point that the teacher had to peel him off me. He had always been really confident, so this came as a bit of a surprise. I now know it was a form of separation anxiety.
With research, I discovered this is more common than I had imagined. Children can develop this anxiety if something big or different is happening in their lives; take Covid-19 as an example! With having so long away from school, and anxieties raised with news reports of the virus and excess death rates, children are struggling more now than they were before lockdown. We may see an increase in children struggling with separation anxiety on their return to school.
One simple technique that I was taught with my little boy was keeping him up to date on what was going on. It sounds silly – and almost a little too simple – but it really worked for us!
When my husband was away, it was just me and the two children. It hadn’t occurred to me that they might think I would go away too. It probably hadn’t consciously resonated with them either but that’s apparently what was happening to cause my little one to be so clingy.
By talking to him over breakfast and telling him what I was up to during the day; even the most boring of tasks like putting the washing on and hoovering, then going on to say I’d be going to school to collect him at home time, and then what we were doing after school all helped. He had a reassurance that I was going to be there. He didn’t have to spend the day worrying about whether I’d still be there. If I couldn’t pick him up, he knew before he left the house who would be there and what the plan was. Within a very short space of time, he was back to his normal, confident self.
I’m not suggesting this is a “cure all” but if you’re having similar problems when your little ones go back, it’s definitely worth a try – no matter how silly it feels running through your daily routine!
I don’t profess to being an expert. What I write here comes from my own experience and I hope that it can help others. It can feel like you’re at breaking point when your child is crying and clinging to you, so anything that could ease this is worth a try.
If you need extra reassurance with your child’s emotions, try At Times I Get These Feelings. This activity book has twelve emotions and explains how each one feels and how to deal with it. You can buy your copy here: cskidsbooks.com/shop and by using the code KPG40 at checkout, you will receive an extra 25% off the already discounted price, with a donation going to The Kaleidoscope Plus Group, a mental health charity helping people of all ages.