Starting daycare is a big transition for both a child and the parents. For some, it’s the first time they’ve ever left their baby in someone else’s care and maybe the first time their baby has been surrounded by a large group of children.
In either case, the first time at daycare can be stressful for parents and the child, no matter their age. There are some things you can do to lessen the separation anxiety that your child (and you) may experience.
Spend Some Time Away. If you and your child are always together and are now preparing for the big separation, spend some time apart before the big day. This can mean that you take a few hours to go shopping or maybe take a class at the gym.
Do a Trial Run. Depending on your child’s age, do a trial run before the first day when you’re actually going to have to leave your child. Chances are you’ve already visited the daycare center before you decided on sending your child there, so you may be slightly familiar with the staff. Before day one when you actually have to leave for the entire day, go with your child to spend some time at the daycare center so that your child can get used to it a little bit when you’re still around.
Send Them with a “Lovey”. Having a comfort from home can help some children experiencing separation anxiety.
It will not only help them calm down, but many times their “lovey” carries a familiar scent (maybe yours) from home that can ease any anxiety they may be having. Plus, it can help them fall asleep at nap time!
Stick to a Routine. No matter what age your child is, many child psychologists and pediatricians will tell you that children function better with a routine. Knowing what to expect and when can reduce anxiety. Stick to a routine including similar drop off and pick up times. This will not only help their body clock with sleeping but will also let them know what’s coming next.
Make a Clean Break. As much as you may want to linger and “sneak out” of the daycare center when your child is not looking, psychologists will tell you that it’s best to make a clean break. Say goodbye and give your hugs and kisses and then leave. Even if your child starts to cry or puts up a fuss, eventually they’ll stop. They’ll also know that you left and won’t think you’re there one minute, and then look up only to realize you’re gone. They may get even more worried thinking that something happened because you never really said goodbye.
Remember, making your child comfortable about going to daycare is going to take time. Eventually, they’ll get used to being away from you while you’re at work and you’ll both look forward to spending time together when you get back. Many children also get to the point that they don’t want to leave daycare at pick-up time because they’re enjoying themselves so much!