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Posted By Daycarespotter.com - Parent Blog Contributor on 04/14/2018 in Useful Information For Parents

Ways to Help Your Child Cope with Separation Anxiety

Ways to Help Your Child Cope with Separation Anxiety

One of the most difficult things about leaving your child in the care of someone else is the sound of your child’s crying when you go. It is heartbreaking to know that your little one is crying and upset when you walk away from them.

Take to heart though: every child goes through periods of separation anxiety, and it is completely normal. Whether a child is being left at preschool for the first time at the age of four or whether they have been in daycare since infancy, all children will at some point struggle with being away from their parents.

While separation anxiety is completely normal, there are many things you can do to minimize its effects (and longevity) on your child.

Practice separating from your child. If you are getting ready to leave your child at daycare for the first time, before day one make sure you arrange some trial runs or brief periods of time to be away from your child. This could start in your home - a very familiar environment - with a grandparent or babysitter. If you have a baby or young toddler, make sure that these first times of separation occur after your child has recently eaten or taken a nap. If they aren’t overly tired or hungry, they are less likely to get as upset. Also, take them by their new school to meet teachers before the big day.

Come up with a goodbye ritual. Develop a routine way to say goodbye to your child when you are leaving them. This could be something as short and sweet as a special wave, blowing a kiss, a hug, or a high five. You could also try using a fun, light-hearted phrase like, “See you later, Alligator!”. Whatever you choose to do, remember to keep it upbeat.

Focus on the positive. Validate that your child is upset, but also try to redirect them to the good aspects of being at preschool. Don’t tell them to stop crying or put words in their mouth like, “I know you don’t want to be here”, but instead say things like, “I know you seem sad right now, but just think about all the fun you are going to have playing with your friends today.” You might remind your child of other times they have been brave as a way to encourage them. You can also redirect their attention to things in the classroom such as a dollhouse or art station that might capture their interest.

Have a consistent caregiver or caregivers. While a new childcare provider may be a stranger to your child at first, they will soon develop a special bond with that person. Finding someone who you are comfortable with and who will remain as consistent as possible for your child is very important.

Let your child have something familiar with them. If your child is being cared for outside of your home, it may help them to have something meaningful from home with them at daycare or preschool. This could be a stuffed animal or blanket. Whatever it is, make sure you put your child’s name on it and alert the caregiver that is a special item to your child. Also, check the school’s policies for bringing toys and such from home.

Don’t sneak out, but also don’t stall. Make sure that your child knows when you are leaving. You don’t need to make a big deal about it or draw too much attention, but you do need to let them know that it is time for you to go. If you sneak out, your child will likely get very upset when they realize you are gone and that could leave them feeling insecure in their environment. The same goes if you linger. If you stay too long, your child will begin to assume you’re staying with them in their new environment. The best thing to do is keep it short, simple, and consistent.

Don’t lose it yourself. Much easier said than done, but if your child sees that you are upset or anxious about leaving them, that only makes separating harder for them. If it is your first time being away from your child, make sure you talk to friends or family to help work through your emotions separate from your child. If you don’t have to be at work after dropping them off, maybe plan a coffee date or manicure with a friend. Shake off any guilt you have about leaving your child. It is good for them and for you!

Stick to your routine. Have a consistent home routine as well as school routine. Make sure your child is getting to bed on time at night. Try to have dinner and bath time be as regular and predictable as possible. Children crave consistency and structure and this will help them at home and at daycare.

Read all about it. Reading books to your child about that deal with kids having anxiety about being away from their parents can also help. Some great titles to check out are Llama, Llama Misses MamaThe Kissing HandOwl Babiesand I Love You All Day LongThere are also many great television shows such as Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood that have episodes dealing with separation anxiety that you could watch with your child.

Expect setbacks. Separation anxiety can come in waves. Your child will go through different phases and just because they are struggling again, doesn’t always mean something is wrong at daycare. Every child and every situation is different. You may also see some regression in areas such as potty training when your child is in a new environment or with a new childcare provider. The only time you should be concerned is if separating seems to continually get worse or if your child routinely makes themselves so upset that they are doing things like throwing up or hurting themselves. If this is the case, talk to your pediatrician.

Even though separation anxiety is a difficult part of parenting a young child, the silver lining is that you are their world and them not wanting to be apart from you is a completely natural side effect of their deep connection with you. However, dealing with separation is an obstacle you can overcome together and both you and your child will be better because of it.