The sound of your child wailing and clinging desperately to you as you try and escape to the door is enough to make any parent want to run back to them, sweep them up and promise to never leave them again. But the reality is that sometimes moms and dads have to leave their little ones behind either for work, a doctor's appointment, or maybe just to have a quiet moment alone. Separation anxiety is one of the most heart-wrenching problems to deal with when it comes to children. But it is a problem that has to be dealt with since you can't possibly be with your child every moment of every day.
Here are some ways to help you and your child deal with separation anxiety. Make sure they are familiar and comfortable with their surroundings and the people you are leaving them with. If it is a new daycare, visit the center a few times with your child to allow them to get to familiar with their new surroundings, teachers and children there. If possible, allow the child to bring along a favorite stuffed animal or blanket. Sometimes having these items there gives them a sense of security. Arrange play dates with some of the children at the childcare center ahead of time so your child can form some relationships. Prepare your child ahead of time for the separation by letting them know where they will be going. You can describe some of the fun things they will be doing at school and it is a good idea to let them know what you will be doing while you are away from them. This lets them know you aren't leaving them because you don't want to be with them but because you have things you have to do. Make sure your child has breakfast and a good night's sleep. Children are easier to deal with when they are rested and have a full belly. Let your child know that you will be back. Try and tell them in an amount of time they will understand such as after lunch, naptime or playtime outside. Once you are at the daycare center, don't linger. Look your child in the eye, tell them goodbye, hugs and kisses and leave. And even if you hear screaming, do not come back. This sends the wrong message to your child that if they scream loud enough mommy will return. Don't sneak out on them. This might sound like an easy out at the time but this usually causes distrust and more distress for the child when they realize you are gone. It often helps if the childcare provider takes your child away from you after you've said goodbye and tries to engage them with a toy or a fun activity. Never scold your child for being scared or upset, just quickly comfort them and reassure them you will be back.
Is it Really Gone?
Once your child gets into the routine and is no longer screaming and crying when you leave, it is important to praise them for being such a “big girl" or “big boy". Remember even when you think you may be home free and the separation anxiety is gone, it can come back just as quickly as it left. The important thing to remember is that most children only cry for a few minutes after their parents have left. If it makes you feel better you can even call the daycare center later to check on your child to see how they are doing. Separating from your child can be heartbreaking at first but it helps them build independence, social maturity and form relationships.
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