Separation anxiety in young children is a milestone that almost every youngster has to pass at some point or another. It usually peaks around the first birthday, but may rear its ugly head at other times, especially if there are stressful events taking place in the child’s life. Separation anxiety woes can make the first days of daycare very tough to deal with. After all, you might be dealing with feelings of guilt and separation anxiety yourself, but you are not quite as vociferous as your child about the whole issue.
Understanding Your Childs Feelings
Depending on the age of your youngster, he or she has discovered object permanence. This is a fancy way of saying that your child suddenly realizes that even when Fluffy goes outside into the yard, and she or he cannot see the dog, the pooch still exists and comes back. This usually happens when a child is about six months old. You might have noticed that your child suddenly enjoys dropping things out of her stroller only to have you pick them up so she can drop them again. After a while, she will transfer this newfound concept of object permanence to you, the parent. Incidentally, this is also the same period that most children are introduced to a childcare environment.
Your baby now understands that even when you leave the room, you still exist, and she will want you back – now! Unlike object permanence, babies have absolutely no concept of time. Additionally, since she cannot understand what you are saying, she will not know that you are coming back. As far as your child is concerned, you are leaving, you will be gone, and she will cry and scream to prevent your leaving.
As a parent, it is a gut-wrenching experience to leave a screaming baby or toddler behind, and their pleading eyes and piercing shrieks are enough to question your decision about day care once again. Here are some great tips on how to deal with leaving your child at day care for the first time.
Practice the drive to the daycare center a few times before going there for the first time. All the while speak in a soothing voice to your child. Help her to associate this trip with something good and pleasant.
Visit the new daycare a few times and allow her to interact with her new caregivers. You might even want to go so far as to excuse yourself on one of these visits to use the restroom to demonstrate to your child that you are leaving and coming right back.
If you are feeling anxious about leaving your child in day care, work very hard at not communicating this to your child. You will only add fuel to the fire.
For the first time, come into the day care center with the child and stay for a minute or two. Once she is settled in with another provider, give her a kiss and leave, just as you did when you went to the restroom. Do not make your good-bye a long production, or your baby will sense that something is about to happen that she will not like. For the same reason, resist the temptation (or bad advice) to discreetly slip away and leave without a hug or kiss. Sneaking away from your little one will probably make her separation anxiety worse than it already is to begin with. Additionally, if your child cries and fusses, it is so tempting to come back repeatedly and soothe her. This is not a good idea, since it will only lead to a replication of the problem.
When you return, be sure to give her a big hug and kiss, and stick around for a minute or two to demonstrate that you are in no particular rush to leave the day care center and that you find the environment pleasant.
As you can see, there are a number of steps to take to ensure that your first day of day care will be the beginning of a pleasant relationship between you, your child, and her day care provider.