Separation anxiety can be hard on babies, but sometimes it’s even harder on parents. As if the guilt of having to leave your little one isn’t hard enough. The sights of those sweet little munchkins crying when you go is just salt in the wound. So how can you make separation easier on both you and baby?
This Too Shall Pass
Let’s face it. The guilt of leaving them is probably never going to fully subside. Even if you feel completely confident in your choice of childcare provider, there is likely still some part of you that feels bad about leaving. For many years, I worked as a center director in large childcares. I have witnessed thousands of children work through the separation anxiety phase. And that’s just what it is – a phase. Our job as parents is to help our babies work through this phase as quickly as possible.
Talk About The Day Ahead
Prepare your baby in advance. Talking about who they will spend the day with, where they will play, and all of the fun things that will happen shows your little one that you are excited about their day and it’s okay for them to be excited as well. Show enthusiasm at the sight of your child’s caregiver. When baby sees that you are pleased to see their caregiver, it helps to strengthen their relationship.
More Trust, Less Separation Anxiety
Never, never, never sneak out when baby isn’t looking. As much as it might seem like the best way to keep them from becoming upset, that will only be the case in the moment. It is likely that after you are gone, your little one will notice you have left and still become upset. Only now, instead of feeling like they are certain you will return, they may feel unsure and abandoned. Trust is built by always saying goodbye and reminding them that you will be back later. Once children see that this is true and you do, in fact, return later, they will begin to feel more comfortable at your departure.
The most important part of easing separation anxiety is not letting your little one sense your unease. Children are bloodhounds for their parents emotions. If they can sense that you’re upset, or nervous, they will be too. If your baby cries and reaches for you, don’t take them back from the caregiver no matter how much you want to. Taking them back sends the message that you don’t trust their caregiver to comfort them when needed. Instead, try saying “I love you so much, Katie. (Insert teacher’s name here!) will take great care of you. I will see you later today!” Hold back any impending tears until you are out of sight. As hard as it is, if your baby sees you get upset, it will undo all the work you have done already! There is nothing wrong with having a good cry in the car. Your feelings are valid and leaving your little one can be hard!
Give It Time
Whether separation anxiety is due to a new caregiving situation, or just growing into the age where a baby recognizes that mom or dad are leaving, it can be hard on everyone. It’s important to remember that this phase won’t last forever. Being consistent in your routines will help to shorten the time that your baby feels uneasy. Remember that every child is different and will work through this phase in their own time. Be patient and don’t forget to remind them at pick up about what a fun day they had while you were gone!
About The Author
Sarah Proctor has worked with young children for over 25 years as a teacher, childcare director, nanny, and mom of two girls. She has her Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education and Administration from UMass Amherst. In addition, Sarah has her Director 2 certification from the Department of Early Education and Care.