Managing emotions is a very important skill that children work on throughout their lives, but especially during their early childhood years. One way that parents can help is by working with their children on their separation anxiety. Separation anxiety usually peaks between 10-18 months and can make saying goodbye very hard for some families. Take a look at these techniques that can help you and your little one say goodbye without, or with less, tears.
Talk about returning
Letting your child know that you will be back is key in the drop off process. Some parents like to give them an idea of when they will be back- you can tell your child something broad like “after snack time” or “after you are asleep tonight.” For children that still are working on separation anxiety but can tell time, give them a specific time for them to watch for on the clock. Whether or not you give them a timeframe, it is always comforting to a child for them to hear that you will be back. Some families even like to enlist the help of childhood cartoon favorite, Daniel Tiger. Sing “Grownups come back” with your little one to ensure they know you will be returning.
When it is time to leave, do not stay too long. Unless it is the first time with a new caregiver, try to be as quick as possible. Staying too long can create confusion for your child- once they have adjusted, they could spot you nearby which will just bring back all of those emotions they just worked through.
Create a distraction
Allow your child’s caregiver to create a distraction while you try to leave. Children crave the novelty of something new, so giving them something to redirect their attention to will help keep their mind off the fact that you have to leave. Help introduce them to the activity and let the teacher or babysitter step in to help keep that engagement going. You can then take a step back, say goodbye to your little one, and walk out the door.
Always say goodbye
As mentioned above, make sure to say goodbye! It is best to not sneak out behind your little one’s back because when they realize you are gone, the meltdown can be much, much worse. Saying goodbye might be hard and bring their attention back to the fact that you are leaving, but it is necessary to build and sustain trust in your relationship.
Watch your own emotions
Children are like sponges- they will pick up on your actions, what you say, and your emotions. When you are stressed at drop off time, chances are your child will be too. Staying positive during drop off time will be better in the long run for both you and your little one. And remember, there is no harm in letting those emotions out the minute you walk away.
At Crème de la Crème, we acknowledge that it is perfectly normal for children to have separation anxiety. It is our goal to make the child feel comforted enough that you will see these big emotions dissipate with time. Talk to your child’s teacher or the school director about your struggles with drop off. We can come up with a plan that will work well for you and your family and will make your child feel comforted while they work on their social-emotional skills.