Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Separation anxiety in toddlers + tips for daycare

My little guy has been away from me for perhaps six total days in his entire 18-month life. Most of those were when he was quite young so he didn't really notice; he just needed milk and some interaction.

Now, at 18 months old, my toddler has a pretty forceful case of separation anxiety. His face crumples when I walk towards a door and he rushes to cling to my arm, leg, foot... whatever he can reach first. His round adorable face turns red and he wails as I pry him away, plant a quick kiss, and tell him I will return shortly. His separation anxiety surfaces even when he is in his own home with Daddy or grandparents. He just wants Mommy - right here, right now, ALL the time.

Day one of daycare was difficult. Day two of daycare (because it was more than one week later) was even worse. Despite having "free time" to work on all of my business and home to-dos that day, I worried and cried about my baby hanging out with near-strangers, in a strange place, without me.  It took all of my might not to pick him up five hours early! He had a difficult day with a lot of tears. He was safe and had moments of fun, but he definitely did not love it.

Numerous experts tell us how to manage separation anxiety in toddlers and how to make the transition to daycare less stressful on everyone. These are some of the most commonly-repeated tips:
  • TRUST the caregiver and interact happily and in a relaxed way, so your child can sense your comfort level and understand he is safe
  • SEND something from home (Andrew clung to his blanket the entire day - but it made him feel a little bit more connected to home)
  • QUICK and simple goodbye - and once you leave, stay away. Coming back while your child is crying will reinforce the idea that crying made you come back. 
  • SMILE even when you do not feel like it. Make every effort to show how much you love the daycare situation and all the fun that is in store for the day. 

It is also a good idea to visit the care location with your child ahead of time and spend some time getting to know the kids, caregivers, and toys.  No matter what, the first few days in a new daycare are going to be difficult, especially if your toddler has entered into the separation anxiety phase.  But stick with it and monitor the child's reactions to you, home, and the center. Give it time. Kids are generally very adaptable and adjust in a few days.

Now.. to follow this advice myself! Here's hoping for a better day with fewer tears next week.

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