Does your toddler wail and scream when she’s greeted by her daycare provider? Does your preschooler flip his lid when it’s time for you to say goodbye?
If so, she’s likely experiencing separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is real and although it usually peaks between 10-18 months, older children who are faced with new situations or environments, without their parents by their side, may experience separation anxiety. The good news is that you can help curb separation anxiety by following a few simple steps.
1. Have a consistent routine.
Children thrive off of consistency and predictability. When children know what to expect, they feel safe and secure. On daycare days, be sure that your child’s sleeping and eating times are consistent and be sure to have a strong morning and evening routine. A well rested and well fed child will be more easily able to handle transitioning to and from daycare.
2. Stay upbeat.
Your child will look to you on how to read new situations. Your child will easily pick up on your anxieties and your worries, so be sure to display confidence in your daycare choice. Show your child that you trust those who will be responsible for her care by being friendly and thanking them (in front of your child) for taking good care of your child.
3. Acknowledge your child’s feelings.
Be sure to validate your child’s feelings, without validating her behavior. “I know you are sad that mommy is going to work, but when we’re sad, we say ‘I’m sad,’ we don’t scream.”
4. Always say good-bye.
While it can be tempting to sneak out when your child seems engaged with an activity or with other kids, don’t. Doing so can undermine your child’s trust in you and take away her opportunity for a successful separation.
5. Resist the urge to go back in.
Prolonging goodbyes and reentering the daycare after you’ve said goodbye usually makes things worse. In addition to giving your child a false sense of hope that you won’t leave, it starts the saying goodbye processes all over again.
6. Talk to your child about her daycare experience.
Don’t make daycare a taboo topic. Take time to listen to your child about her experience. Ask open ended questions like “What did you do today?” Doing so will alert you to any underlying concerns or issues that may be increasing her separation anxiety.
Saying goodbye can be difficult for your child, but if you are confident in your daycare choice, and show your child that you are, she’ll soak up her confidence from you and her separation anxiety will be reduced.