With many going back to school, uni and work after the summer, or perhaps starting somewhere new, some may be experiencing separation anxiety. While new beginnings or returning can be exciting, it can also be a time of anxiety or apprehension, breaking the routine we have had over the summer break.
Here are a few tips to try and make the next few days and weeks a little easier.
- This is an exciting next step of your/their journey – remind yourself of the positives, and all that is to be gained. Eg. Your/their independence, learning, and growth.
- Remind yourself that you have gone through change successfully before and it’s another milestone to be where you are now.
- Reassure yourself and your family members that you are never far from them. In a day you are just a few hours away from seeing them. In a week, just a few days. In a month, just a few weeks. And with phones and laptops, we are just a click away from hearing and seeing our loved ones.
- Talk to others. Talking to others can help as sharing your anxieties can help to dilute them. Friends/family/colleagues can offer reassurance, be there when you need them, and offer ideas or strategies that may help you
- Familiarise yourself with a teacher/ support. It can be very reassuring to have a chance to speak with someone ahead of time. Even if that is on the day when you meet them, having a few moments to feel safe in where you or they will be can make all the difference in helping you overcome anxiety. Don’t be afraid to express you are feeling a bit anxious. When others know they can hold you in mind. If you are very anxious, ask if there is someone you can check in with during the day/week – this may be someone at the office or pastoral support who may be able to reassure you
- Establish a point of contact for your loved one to have support, if they need it, during their day. This may be a teacher, someone at the office or a friend. It will be reassuring for you both to know you each have someone you can approach.
- Plan something nice for yourself in the time you are apart – perhaps meet a friend, go to the gym, or take up a new hobby. Being busy works wonders to help the time pass.
- A little memento. Whether it is a little stone you pick together outside, a note or something from home, or perhaps something that is special to either of you, just having a little something you can squeeze or hold close during the day/week/month can be very calming and help you feel close.
- Plan your new routine so it can feel a bit more familiar ahead of time. As humans, we often take safety in familiarity such as routines so having an idea of what you may be doing when can help you in those early days to help you settle into your new routine. Consistency can really help to calm. This might just be what time you will get up, what you plan to eat for lunch, what you will do when you see each other or what you plan to do in the evenings.
- Do you have a goodbye routine/ritual? Creating one can help offer familiarity each time you part, and help to feel calm and safe. It can be very reassuring to you both to plan ahead to when you will be reunited E.g. ‘I will see you right here at 3.30 pm’, ‘I will be here at 5 pm on leave weekend, and we will be having pizza for dinner!’.
- Make some special time for when you are reunited, even if it’s just a few minutes to hug. When I went to boarding school, I would play scrabble with my mum the night I returned, I was our special way of just being us and helping me to resettle. Doing something familiar gives you both the chance to take comfort in looking forward to that thing while you are apart.
- If you are feeling very anxious it may help to give yourself a time of the day that you will stop and think about your loved one. Allowing yourself specific times can help to know you will be allowing yourself time to embrace in the warmth of thinking about them can help to reduce thoughts intruding, or anxiety building through the day. 5 minutes at lunchtime allowing yourself comforting thoughts, memories of doing lovely things together, smiling, happy, can be very reassuring and calming.
- If you are feeling upset, overwhelmed or anxious during the day, talk to someone. Remember, we have all been there, whether as a child or a parent, we have all likely experienced some degree of separation anxiety at some point.