In the weeks ahead, parents will begin returning to work after lockdown. For children of all ages, the 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. But, importantly, it is unlikely that life for any of us is going to go back to the way it was.
Viewed through a child’s eyes, it is not difficult to see how hard this will be for many of them.
Back to work after lockdown: how do we navigate another transition?
Children will soon, like their parents, face a second major life transition in less than three months. Every child will be different, but how they adapt to this next transition can be positively influenced by their parents. Here are five ways that parents can help their children handle life after lockdown.
Prepare kids for your return to work after lockdown
Give children as much notice as possible about your return to work so they have some time to process the change. Encourage them to be involved in the process and help them to feel an element of shared ownership.
Though the decision may have already been taken (or enforced by financial concerns) it is advisable not to present it as a done deal. Keep in mind that children had no choice when it came to the Coronavirus lockdown in the first instance.
Talk to your child about their Coronavirus anxieties
Make and take the time to speak to your child about returning 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.
Work out a plan together
As a family, work out a plan to help them manage the transition of you returning to work and their new routine. For example, they may have previously had your support to do school work. Assure them that this support is still there but it will take a new ‘old’ form of being focused in the evenings and/or 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 to have a short video call during their mid-morning ‘school’ break time and another at the end of their virtual school day. These are good opportunities to check in with them, to see how they are going and to show you are safe and comfortable at work.
Try to understand and lessen a child’s fears about Coronavirus Covid-19
Children may feel worried that your return to work will put you in danger of contracting Covid-19. For several weeks they have been given a strong ‘stay at home’ message. It is, therefore, understandable that they might worry about your safety.
Talk to them about the safety measures your workplace is putting in place. If possible, show them the new office or factory floor layouts, with 2-metre gaps and colleagues wearing PPE. Take them through the precautions you will take like driving to work instead of taking the train, wearing a mask or keeping hand sanitizer with you.
It is really important that parents do not shut down the fears and anxieties of their children. Though their concerns might seem far-fetched to you, remember a child’s brain is not fully developed. Their ability to rationally process information about Coronavirus and returning to work after lockdown is limited compared to an adult.
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. At this time, it is important to look after your mental health and alleviate your own fears and anxieties. If you have concerns about workplace safety talk to a manager or HR representative to check Scottish Government guidelines are being adhered to.
You may also be experiencing guilt about leaving your children at home and starting back 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. Access support and help from those around you and keep yourself safe.
Counselling and support parents, families and children
Here at The Spark we have a dedicated team of counsellors available to support children and young people in Scotland. Our counselling services are available individually or are available through a large number of Scottish primary and secondary schools.
Check with your child’s school to see if they have counselling in place. Alternatively, find out more about our youth counselling service or freephone 0808 802 0050 to speak to one of our team.
We also provide support and counselling for adults through our Relationship Helpline. This free service is for any adult over the age of 16 in Scotland and offers support, signposting to specialist help and access to free counselling. Freephone 0808 802 2088 during opening hours.
Dee Barker Creggan
Counsellor - Children and Young People at The Spark Counselling
Dee is a member of the British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapists and a Children and Young People Counsellor with The Spark. She primarily works with young people in Secondary schools in Scotland. Dee’s psychotherapy interests include attachment difficulties, low mood, anxiety, and young people who face social, emotional and behavioural challenges.