How to manage your child’s anxieties.

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In the weeks ahead, parents will begin returning to work as lockdown restrictions easing of Coronavirus restrictions may create, or heighten, anxieties and fears.

From an emotional perspective, children have come to rely on and become accustomed to the daily support of a
parent during this difficult time. Practically, their daily routine since mid-March will abruptly come to an end.
When you view this through a child’s eyes, it is not difficult to see how hard this will be for many of them.

Are you returning to work?  How do you manage another transition?

Children, just like their parents will soon face a second big life transition in less than three months. Every child will react differently; however, parents can influence how they adapt to this next transition.

Here are five ways that parents can help their children handle going back to work after lockdown:

1) Prepare your child for your return to work

It is a good idea to give children as much notice as possible about your return to work so they have time to process the change. Encourage them to be involved in the process and help them to feel a sense of ownership. Although the decision may have already been taken out of your hands, it is advised not to present it to your children as a done deal.

Keep in mind that children had no choice when it came to the lockdown in the first place.

2) Talk to your child about their anxieties

Make the time to speak to your child about your return to work. Explain the reasons why you have to do this and ask them how they are feeling about it. It is important to have an open conversation about their potential worries and fears, listen to what they have to say and allow them time, and space to express their feelings, even if they are requesting that you stay at home.

Remember to respond therapeutically and acknowledge their emotions “I can see you are finding this really difficult” “I understand why you would be feeling that way, I would also feel that way too”

3) Work out a plan together

As a family, sit together and work out a plan to help them manage the transition of you returning to work and the families’ new routine. For example, they may previously have had your support to help them with schoolwork during the daytime.

Assure them that this support is still there but may start to look differently and may look like the ‘old’ routine of being focussed on in the evenings and weekends.

Consider your current lockdown routine and use this to help ease the transition. For the first week or two of your return to work, agree on a couple of times throughout the day to have a short video call. These are good opportunities to check in with them, to see how they are doing and to show them that you are safe at work.

4) Try to understand and lessen your child’s fears

Children may feel worried about you returning to work and be concerned about you contracting Covid-19. For
the last few months, children have been given the strong message to ‘stay at home’ it is therefore understandable that they might worry about your safety.

It is a good idea to talk to them about the safety measures your workplace has put in place. If possible, show them your workplace layout, PPE, talk through the precautions you will take like driving to work instead of taking the
train, wearing a mask or keeping hand sanitiser with you.

It is important that as a parent you do not shut down any fears or anxieties of your children. Though their
concerns might seem exaggerated to you, remember a child’s brain is not fully developed. Their ability to
rationally process information about the virus and returning to work is limited compared to an adult. Again,
remember to respond therapeutically, recognise, and validate their feelings.

5) Keep yourself physically, emotionally and mentally safe

Returning to work after lockdown will not be an easy decision or change for any parent but it may also be a necessary one. It is important to look after your mental health and alleviate your own fears and anxieties. Talk to your manager and discuss your concerns, they may be able to put in place certain measures to help you.

You may also be experiencing guilt about leaving your children at home and returning to work. Understand that
this is normal and if you feel you are not managing these feelings try and find someone to talk to; your partner,
a colleague, family member, friend or professional. Ensure to access support, help from those around you, and keep yourself safe.

Although it is likely to take a long time for life to return to what we know as ‘normal’ you may all actually find a sense of normality comforting and reassuring as a family.