You’re not alone as a parent, if you approach your child’s first daycare experience with trepidation. It’s quite possible your child will start sobbing or screaming when you go to say goodbye, clinging to your legs with all their might, and making you feel like the worst parents ever.
You might well know that most children only experience separation anxiety for a short period, but that doesn’t make it any easier at the time!
Luckily there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your child’s separation anxiety and encourage them to adjust to their new day care centre environment.
Here we take a look at:
- How common separation anxiety is in young children
- How to prepare your child for daycare to minimise anxiety
- How to manage separation anxiety when leaving your child
- How your centre can help reduce your child’s anxiety
Is My Child Normal?
Separation anxiety is incredibly common in children; it’s not an indication that you’ve done something wrong but simply illustrates how well your child has bonded with you. Many babies will start displaying signs of separation anxiety at around 9 months, some will show signs even earlier, (from 5 months), some won’t develop anxiety until they are toddlers, and others still will bypass it altogether.
While the stress of separation anxiety when starting day care might be unavoidable, there are plenty of things you can do to manage it and to reduce its severity. It all starts with good preparation.
How Can I Prepare my Child for Day care?
Before your child starts daycare it’s a good idea to get them used to spending time with unfamiliar people while still in your presence. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can graduate to leaving your child with relatives or close friends for short periods, so become accustomed to you going away and coming back.
Another step you can take to alleviate your child’s stress is to ease them into daycare gently. Make their first sessions short ones. Ask your day care centre if you can spend several mornings with your child while they settle in. At Sesame Lane we strongly encourage parents to do this, as it gives each child time to adjust to their new surroundings (and new faces) while their parent/s are still there.
In the lead up to starting daycare, it can be helpful to give your child a sense of what daycare is like: What happens each day? What will they do? Who will drop them off and pick them up? What should they take with them to daycare? This will help make the new experience seem less scary and more familiar.
What Should I Do When I Leave My Child at Day Care?
Our number one tip is to leave quickly. Don’t draw out the goodbyes, it doesn’t help. When you leave, make sure your child knows you are going, and try to say farewell to them in a cheerful manner. Give them a parting comfort toy, something that reminds them of home. Make sure you explain to them when you’ll be back and, obviously try to pick them up exactly when you said you would.
How your Day Care Centre Can Help with Separation Anxiety
At Sesame Lane we do our best to minimise separation anxiety by working to understand each child’s personality before their first independent day at one of our day care centres.
Our early childhood educators know how to respond to children with separation anxiety. Their first step will always be to comfort and reassure your child (this is obviously easier if the child has had previous opportunities to get to know the educator while mum or dad is around).
Our staff understand the importance of letting the child know their feelings are valid and that it’s ok for them to be upset. However we find that many children calm down relatively quickly once soothed and encouraged to engage in the activities on offer.
We appreciate how stressful separation anxiety can be for you and your child. If your child’s anxiety continues for an extended period, we’re always on hand to discuss strategies and support. We want every child to have the best day care experience possible.