Choosing Childcare Thoughtfully

Does Your Child Have Separation Anxiety Blues? Use These Tricks To Help Them Be More Independent

by Erik Reyes

If your little one is getting to preschool age or if changing circumstances have put you in need of day care, one of the first hurdles you'll need to face is separation anxiety. While some anxiety is natural when parents leave for long periods, your kid could miss out on chances to have fun and learn if anxiety is too strong. Luckily, there are several steps you can take to protect your child from strong separation anxiety.

Practice Separating Before The Big Day

Before you put your child into care, you'll need to get them used to being with a caregiver for extended periods while you are away. For a smooth transition, you can go through several stages of separation to help your child gradually become more comfortable with other people.

The first step is to introduce the new caregiver in your own home, with you in the room. Then, leave the room and allow the caregiver to watch the child for a few hours on their own. If the child is upset, you can reassure them that you are still in the home. Once they are more confident, you can have the child go with the caregiver to a neighboring house or yard. Increasing the distance will help your kid feel more independent, but staying in the same neighborhood will provide a feeling of security.

Once you think you're ready to move to the next step, have your caregiver start taking care of the child for longer periods. You can begin running errands or going to work while your child is in care. Though you can no longer be easily reached during the care period, this will help your kid come to accept that you will return after going away, and that nothing bad will happen to you.

Ensure Exits Are Graceful and Well-Timed

Sometimes it isn't your absence that upsets the child so much as the way you leave. If you leave suddenly, while your child is excited, and without giving them a sense of closure and reassurance, it can make them feel very anxious.

One way to provide closure is to have a ritual for every time you say goodbye. This ritual can be as simple as a high five or a kiss on the cheek, and the action itself doesn't matter. Carrying out this ritual for every goodbye will help normalize your exits for your child and keep them from feeling alarmed when you leave. You should also keep your parting words short, which will prevent the child from changing their mind about how they feel before you leave.

it's also important to know when the best time is to go. If you're working through separation anxiety with your child by staying for part of the day at day care or preschool, then the moment you pick to exit can strongly impact how well your child handles things. Good times to leave include after meals and after naps, when children feel content and comfortable. Before naps, during play, and during learning periods are bad times to leave, since children will be more needy and excitable during these times.

Don't Feed Your Child's Fears

Feeling overprotective is natural, especially for first-time parents, but unfortunately you may be making your child anxious if you try to constantly keep him or her safe. By pointing out dangers often and warning your child about them, you condition them to be worrisome and overly alert for trouble. One consequence of this is that your child fears for your safety or their own safety whenever you are not present.

Fortunately, children feed on your good vibes just as much as they do on your anxiety. The more comfortable and confident you seem in a new setting, the less worried your child is likely to feel, so adopting a less protective attitude will help encourage your child to be more independent.

With enough practice and a reassuring goodbye ritual at a place like Kid's Country Child Care & Learning Center, your child should hopefully overcome separation anxiety quickly, but if not, don't worry. As long as you work with your kid patiently, they'll eventually come to accept that they can't be with you at all times - and that will give them the independence they need to learn and play all on their own.