How to Identify and Manage Re-Entry Anxiety
Updated: Jan 22
The pending return to school is an exciting change for some and a daunting one for others. Some have established routines that are working well for their families and others are floundering under the weight of risky obstacles. A return to school may have some of us switching places. Whether your family is ready for the change or not, it requires a shift in routine for all of us. If you are feeling overwhelmed, you are not alone!
Re-entry anxiety is on the rise. We have collected a group of articles that explain what re-entry anxiety is; how to identify it in yourself or your child; and how to manage it.
WHAT IS RE-ENTRY ANXIETY?
"‘Re-entry anxiety’, a specific form of stress related to the fear of being unable to adapt to previously established routines... is the fear of trying to establish, and be comfortable in, our old lives before the COVID-19 outbreak and social distancing measures."
“Re-entry anxiety is a hot topic in most therapy sessions and with most people I come across daily,” says psychotherapist Kelly Keck, LMHC. Mostly, it involves feeling anxious when faced with activities that, pre-pandemic, would have felt totally normal and safe.
Think: having a panic attack in the grocery store, breaking down in tears at the thought of going back to the office, or not being able to get through your kids’ school drop off without a racing heartbeat set off by stress.”
HOW IT IMPACTS US AND HOW WE CAN COPE
“When we were sheltering from the viral storm, we felt a sense of control. As long as we weren’t in contact with anyone or anything transmitting the virus, we felt confined, yet safe. Now we are no longer in complete control over our exposure and risk and, as I often say, when a sense of control goes down, stress goes up.”
HOW IT IMPACTS OUR CHILDREN AND HOW TO HELP THEM COPE
“Kids pick up on their parents’ well-being. “If parents are anxious and making statements that they’re worried about this or that, younger kids especially are going to pick that up,” says Dr. Rivera. They might parrot the same phrases you used without necessarily understanding the meaning behind it. If you do need to vent to your partner, friend or family member, do so behind closed doors.”
“How you help your child as they transition back to school may depend on what type of anxiety they are experiencing and their age. For instance, children under age 12 are more likely to have separation anxiety and might need reassurance about being away from you, especially after spending increased time together due to the pandemic. Older children may feel unsure about how changes might affect their social connections or feel frustrated by perceived limitations on their freedom.”
SIGNS TO WATCH OUT FOR IN YOUR CHILDREN (credit: Children's Health)
Increased defiance or irritability
Disturbances in sleep
Loss of appetite
Lack of concentration
Physical symptoms like nausea, muscle tension or dizziness
Refusal to go to school
Sadness or crying
If you or your children are experiencing re-entry anxiety and need professional help, you can find a list of mental health resources on our Parent Support Resources page. We also invite you to attend our February CONNECTIONS CAFE session on Parenting Through Change. This therapist-led, peer-support session won't replace an individual appointment with a therapist, but it may address general issues and provide a sense of connection.