This article will explore separation anxiety as we start to return to some form of normality and explore tips and what support is available if you are impacted by separation anxiety.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is when an individual experiences excessive anxiety regarding separation from home, people or pets that they have a strong emotional attachment to (e.g. a parent, caregiver, significant other, siblings or dogs.)
What are some of the types of situations that can cause separation anxiety?
Many of us will adapt to change well and not experience any anxiety as things start to return to normal (or the new normal), some of us may experience mild anxiety as things change and others may experience more severe feelings of anxiety. It is important to remember that we all feel and deal with change in different ways, especially when it means a change to the amount of contact time we have with each other.
Some of the most common situations that can cause separation anxiety and that are happening now or may happen in the not too distant future are:
• Parent, spouse or partner returning to their place of work after working remotely.
• Children returning to nursery or school after a prolonged time off
• Separation anxiety in dogs after a prolonged time at home with owners
• Elderly dependants or relatives
What are some of the common symptoms of separation anxiety in people?
• Unusual distress about being separated from a person or pet
• Excessive worry that another person will be harmed if they leave them alone
• Heightened fear of being alone
• Physical symptoms when they know they will be separated from another person soon
• Excessive worry surrounding being alone
• Needing to know where a spouse or loved one is at all times
Tips to combat separation anxiety:
With dogs, it is important to try and pre-empt any separation anxiety and to start early. If you know or think a return to the workplace is happening soon, try leaving your dog in another room for periods of time or try leaving the house to start getting them used to being alone. That way they will get used to your return. It is recommended to speak with your vet to obtain
With children, again it can be very helpful to try to set things in motion before the actual change. This could be getting up at the time they would do for nursery or school and/or doing a test run of the journey to nursery or school, especially if this involves a change to the normal route or when starting a new nursery or school. If there are mutual friends attending the same nursery or school, arranging a play date prior to the return can help with the adjustment.
Other tips you can try are:
• Explain the changes and talk about them together.
• Reflect together on what it might feel like to have closer contact with people and go outside more.
• Stick to regular routines such as daily mealtimes and bedtimes as much as you can.
• Spend quality time doing positive activities with your child.
• Remind them that the rules are there to help keep them and others safe.
• Remember that this is a gradual process and that your child may need some time to adjust to the new situation.
Health & Wellbeing
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