As a family – we have 2 dogs and 2 kids – we’ve had some teething problems during the COVID-19 isolation period, but we’ve coped quite well. We are well situated in a large home with a decent backyard and have fit into a routine that works for us. Now, the problem arises, we – my wife and I – have both been asked to return to office. Which is fine – except it’s causing a lot of anxiety. One, the kids – 4 and 6 - are having nightmares, of something happening to us when they aren’t around. So we can’t even go to the bathroom without a gang tagging along. Secondly, if anyone does go out, even just for groceries, we come back to distressed dogs who have emptied their bladders and are whimpering. ALL of us have separation anxiety. And a week to manage it. What can we do to help things along?
Reader wishes to be anonymous
Answered by Alfred Gull, Psychologist, German Neuroscience Centre
The fear of losing someone, especially parents, or of something bad happening is often increased in times we are enjoying a certain situation.
And in this case, these children seem to have just that kind of feeling. They like having their parents around them all the time and they do not want that to change. But they cannot express that verbally, as they are too young for that. On the one hand, they are not eloquent enough at that age. On the other hand, they have a threatened feeling – like something will go wrong - and that is causing the anxiety. Everyone in that family seems to love the good thing about the ‘Corona situation’ : The opportunity to enjoy spending way more special time together than they ordinarily would have.
So, for everyone, it’s the anxiousness of the upcoming changes and its uncertainty; what will happen, exactly: ”How (bad) will it be?”. Most of us have the expectation that things will not return to the way they were before ‘Corona’; some expect better and some worse.
Change isn't bad
What is for sure is, it will not be the same anymore. We all need to acknowledge that it will be different. And different means new, and new things can be exciting.
Conversation is key
Therefore, the parents definitely need to talk with their kids, let them express and verbalize their feelings as well as possible. The parents also need to be as specific as possible in giving their children certainty in how things will be after they have to go back to office.
Describing the coming situation in a detailed manner will help the children understand what’s next. Otherwise, there will remain a “floating around”, threatening and unspecific sense of anxiety. Expressing a positive attitude and expectation can help.
Plan the day out
The talk of ‘what-will-be’ will give the children more security and purpose. They will exactly know when the parents will be away and what will happen in the meantime. They will understand when their parents will be back, and the fact that they will still factor in special time for their kids.
To sum it up, there seems to be a lot of uncertainty about the upcoming new situation. This uncertainty causes insecurity for the parents, and the children are sensing this. To clarify and specify what everyone can expect in the upcoming months is best way to move forward.
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Disclaimer: This blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of doctors are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.