Child Care Troubleshooting: Decreasing Separation Anxiety In Very Young Children
As a parent, leaving a young child at a care center can be stressful enough, but it becomes even more troubling for parents' emotions when the baby struggles with separation anxiety. Some babies and young toddlers cannot be left alone by their parents without struggling, which makes childcare tortuous. There are some things you can do as a parent to work on separation issues so your child can have a more enjoyable child care experience.
Spend as much one-on-one time with your child as possible.
Your child fears a loss of connection with you as they develop an understanding of object permanence -- that something can exist when they do not see it. They know you are somewhere, but when you are out of sight, they are powerless to know where you have gone. You can help to make your child feel more secure by giving them plenty of time with you after you have gone away (even for five minutes), to re-establish the bond and teach that your comforting presence as a parent will not be lost.
Leave your baby with other loved members of the family before plunging into full-time care.
Baby is likely most attached to mom or dad, but other family members also provide love and familiarity to your child. Plan time away where you baby can first stay with people with whom they are completely familiar. Then, you can introduce the main caregiver and allow your baby time to adjust to them. Having "secondary" people present during the first stages of separation anxiety can provide comfort to your child, eventually teaching them the skill of self-calming.
Reduce the stress of goodbyes.
Parting is such sweet sorrow, but the sorrow is short lived and the goodbye is all the sweeter when you don't dwell on it too much. Drawn out goodbyes with lots of talking, reassurances, and embraces can actually increase your child's stress level. Show your child that there is nothing to fear by providing a short farewell, a quick hug and a "I'll be back! See you later!" You aren't stressed, and you show the example that short separation is normal and easy, not scary and hard. Try to avoid "sneaking" out when your child isn't looking -- be direct and let them see you leave. This prompts a meltdown at first, but it helps to establish trust to help your child come with you leaving later. Sneaking out only reinforces the fear and attachment to you, because you might leave without them even realizing it until it is too late.
For more tips on handling separation anxiety, contact a company like Learning Tree Schools.