When your toddler was still a baby, you probably felt more anxious about leaving him in the care of others than he did about your absence. Babies feel little need to worry as long as their caregiver can meet their basic needs, regardless whether it is their parents or a sitter. But as they grow old, babies develop a kind of attachment to people and objects that are constant features in their life such as their parents. Often, toddlers as young as a year old develop separation anxiety when their parents are out of sight. Although normal, these can cause undue stress to them and their parents when the latter have to leave. Here are some tips to help you and your child overcome separation anxiety:
1. Brief your child about what to expect in a daycare center.
Being left in an unfamiliar place can worsen the anxiety felt by your child. Prevent this by briefing him about what he can expect in a daycare. Point out that his basic needs drinking, eating, resting, and bathroom will be attended to in the daycare. Excite him with the opportunity of meeting new playmates.
2. Explain where will you go and what will you do when you leave him.
Tell your child that you have to go to work. Stress that going to work is not a choice but an obligation. Give him brief details like “At 9 o’clock, Mommy has to attend a meeting with a client.” Most importantly, tell him that you will fetch him every afternoon.
3. Give him a brief tour of the daycare.
Prior to having your child attend regular day school, tour him around and inside the place. Get him to meet his teachers and care providers in the daycare. If possible, schedule playdates with other new kids in the daycare for an hour twice or thrice a week to prepare your child for larger groups during regular day school.
4. Help your child be more confident.
Teach your child how to introduce himself to other people. Practice and role-play with him until he is comfortable about introducing himself or talking to other people, especially his peers and caregivers.
5. Be in the daycare early.
Never rush in the morning this will only increase your child’s worry. Arrive early enough to be able to introduce your child to his caregivers, teachers, and some of the other kids. Be sure to spend a few minutes playing with your child or reading him a story. Just be sure to set a time and stick with it. Tell your child that you’ll stay with him for five minutes and when the time is up, kiss him and remind him when you will be back.
Although these tips can help minimize the anxiety felt by your child during your absence, bear in mind that eliminating this anxiety will take a long time. Your child may cry or give in to tantrums during the first few days but with consistent practice, he will gradually get over his anxiety caused by your absence.