Are you dreading that daycare drop-off due to separation anxiety? And you’re probably wondering how to ease your child’s separation anxiety? No doubt you aren’t the only one. Leaving your child in daycare is always a tense moment because when they are crying and upset, it can be incredibly stressful. This is when you start questioning how you’re ever going to make this work because the mum-guilt has kicked in. However, be rest assured that separation anxiety is a completely normal part of childhood development and often improves over time.
Separation anxiety varies greatly from child to child. Some babies often get clingy and cry when they don’t see their mom (even for a short time), while other children demonstrate separation anxiety during infancy, toddlerhood, and preschool.
Therefore, this article will provide a detailed and comprehensive education on separation anxiety, the symptoms of separation anxiety and how to handle it, and the tips to ease your child’s separation anxiety.
Table of Contents
- What is Separation Anxiety?
- The Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety?
- What is Separation Anxiety Disorder?
- Separation Anxiety Disorder vs. Separation Anxiety
- What Triggers Separation Anxiety?
- Top Ways To Handle Separation Anxiety
- Tips To Smooth Separation Anxiety Transition To Daycare
- This Phase Will Pass
What is Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is when someone is afraid to leave a particular person, group of people, or even a pet. However, separation anxiety usually occurs in children.
Babies adapt pretty well to other caregivers especially if they’re less than 6 months old. Let’s be honest, as a parent, you’d probably feel more anxiety about being separated than your little baby. This is because babies can easily adjust to other people.
Babies develop a sense of “object permanence” between 4-8 months of age. In other words, they begin to know that things and people exist even if they cannot see them at that moment. This is the period when babies learn that their mom or dad has gone away when they can’t see them. Thus, since they don’t understand the concept of time, they tend to become upset by their absence. It doesn’t matter if their mom is in the next bedroom or the kitchen – they just want to see their mom nearby.
Babies between the ages of 8 months and 1 year have grown into more independent toddlers; however, they’re more anxious about being separated from a parent. Subsequently, this is how separation anxiety develops in a child, and the child can become restless and upset when the parent tries to leave.
By the time the child is three years old, most have a clear understanding of how anxiety and plea during separation affect us. While it doesn’t mean they aren’t stressed by being separated from their loved ones, it shows that they’re vying for a change.
Furthermore, know that the timing of separation anxiety varies. Some kids may struggle with separation anxiety from the age of 18 months to two and a half years – some never experience it.
What Are The Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety?
Oftentimes, separation anxiety symptoms start when a caregiver is departing. Children may throw a tantrum, cry, cling, and resist other caregivers in an attempt to stop the parent from leaving.
Moreover, you should know that the symptoms of separation anxiety as a developmental stage is completely normal until the age of two. Hence, some of the elements that make it difficult for a parent to leave include:
- Excessive crying
- Forcefully clinging onto the caregiver’s body or clothes.
- Refusal to relate with another caregiver or other children.
What is Separation Anxiety Disorder?
Separation Anxiety Disorder is not considered a normal stage of development, but rather a serious emotional problem characterized by extreme anxiety when the child is not with the primary caregiver.
However, separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder share some similar symptoms. Therefore, it can be overwhelming when trying to understand whether the child needs time and understanding or has more serious problems. This brings us to the next part…
Separation Anxiety Disorder vs. Separation Anxiety
The main difference between normal separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder is the severity of the child’s fear and whether these fears interfere with the child’s normal activity. For instance, children with separation anxiety may become agitated just thinking about leaving their mother or father and may complain of illness to avoid playing with friends or going to school. Therefore, this anxiety can add up to a disorder when the symptoms are extreme enough. However, no matter how worried your child is when separated, separation anxiety disorder is treatable.
What Triggers Separation Anxiety?
The following scenarios can cause separation anxiety in children.
- Large Gathering: Going to a large gathering is especially alarming for your child who may be afraid of losing you in the crowd.
- Going to Sleep: Leaving a toddler in the room for a night or a nap can cause anxiety. This is because it can be the longest period a toddler spends alone regularly.
- Saying Goodbye: As toddlers grow, they gain more control over their bodies (think self-feeding and running), and each of the new challenges they face can be stressful. Hence, they need their parent’s guidance. However, they tend to develop separation anxiety when they’re away from the security of their parents. Thus, you should know that toddlers need reassurance that when you leave, you’ll always come back.
How Long Does Separation Anxiety Last?
How long separation anxiety lasts depends on the reaction of the child and the parent. In some cases, depending on the child’s temperament, separation anxiety may persist from childhood to elementary school year.
As stated earlier, separation anxiety, which affects the normal activity of older children, can be a sign of deep anxiety disorder. However, there may be other problems such as bullying if separation anxiety suddenly appears in older children.
Top Ways To Handle Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety in toddlers may last months or years; however, there are many things you can do to ease the symptoms. Highlighted below are the tips to help banish your little one’s worries.
Keep The Goodbyes Brief
When you want to leave your child, give him a warning in advance that a sitter is coming or that you will drop him off at the daycare, and then make sure you keep your goodbyes brief. This is because the transition time will increase as you linger, and it will lead to anxiety.
You also need to avoid sneaking out to avoid your child being worried about you leaving without warning. Consequently, your child will understand that the time apart is temporary and is not a cause for alarm.
Prepare An Activity
According to Elizabeth Pantley, author of the No-Cry Separation Anxiety Solution, getting a child engaged with a new toy or a clapping game will take his mind off your absence. Therefore, another great way of handling separation anxiety is to ensure the babysitter or daycare center has an activity ready immediately you turn your baby over.
Always Pay Attention To Them At Large Gatherings
If you get to a place with a lot of faces, try not to push your toddler to interact without you. Instead, wait until he wants to relate with others – but don’t wander off or disappear if someone is amusing her. Also, if he is upset, be prepared to scoop him up. Pushing him beyond his limits will only make interacting in the next large gathering more difficult.
Create A Soothing Bedtime Routine
Create a comfortable arrangement for bedtime events such as showers, followed by stories and songs. Subsequently, your child will ease into the notion that bedtime is coming.
Tips To Smooth Separation Anxiety Transition To Daycare
A good daycare center is very positive for your baby’s growing independence, learning, and socialization. Thus, we’ve rounded up a few tips to smooth separation anxiety transition to daycare for both parent and child.
For The Child
Develop A Goodbye Ritual
To create a fuss-free drop-off, it’s essential to create a consistent goodbye ritual with your child. Basically, it could be something as simple as a cute goodbye phrase, saying, “I love you,” or creating a special handshake when you leave. Also, make sure the routine feels natural to you and your child and you repeat the same routine so your child knows what to expect.
Bring Something Familiar
A reminder of your home makes the first few trips to the daycare center a little easier and provides comfort on tough days. It could be a toy, family picture, blanket, or any other item.
Talk It Through With Your Kid
According to Heather Wittenberg, even toddlers will benefit from their parents’ talk about what this new thing called daycare will look like. For example, you can say this to your kid: “Starting tomorrow, we’ll drop you off and there’ll be other kids there, and you will have lunch, play some games, and I’m going to pick you up after naptime and snacks.”
Additionally, another great option is reading a picture book about going to daycare to your kid. This will help your kid pick up on the cadence and it’ll give them a sense of predictability that everything will be okay.
To ease separation anxiety, you could start your child off with a part-time schedule in daycare. You can discuss this with your childcare provider to know the best way to start gradually before plunging into a full-time schedule for your child.
For The Parent
Make Your Research
Every working parent has likely read one or two daycare horror stories in the news, which makes our fear of sending children in the arms of strangers hard to contend with.
Do Regular Check-ins
Having someone else take care of your child can make many parents feel out of control. You may be worried about how long they sleep, or you may wonder about their best friend in daycare. Therefore, establish a relationship with your childcare provider to facilitate questions such as these. Subsequently, it will give you a better glimpse of their new world away from home.
Hence, you need to find the best daycare for your baby. Ask many questions, such as “What is your employee’s qualification level?” Making sure it provides a simple answer that will address these concerns.
Expect The Adjustment To Take Time
Finally, you should know that it’s going to take time for your child to adjust to daycare. Depending on their temperament, it could be days or weeks. Therefore, expect to see a few tears during pickup – it shouldn’t make you question your decision unless it goes on.
This Phase Will Pass
Remember, this phase is only temporary. Separation anxiety may be worse for your child than other children if your child is not cared for by anyone other than you, is naturally shy, or is under other stress.
In addition, you have to rely on your instincts. If your child refuses to go to a particular babysitter or daycare center or is showing other signs of stress, such as decreased appetite or trouble sleeping, there may be a problem with the daycare.
Separation anxiety rarely persists on a daily basis after the preschool years. Thus, talk to your pediatrician if you are worried that your child isn’t adapting to being without you. Your pediatrician can certainly help support your family (if you’re facing such a situation), calm your anxiety, and help you decide on a plan to support you both.
For more enquiry on our childcare services, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at Perfect Angels Learning Center today.