One of the hardest things my wife and I found with our first child was the toddler separation anxiety of those first few times at day-care. I've gotta say that we also made several if not all of the mistakes listed below as well!
I wish that there was some way to explain to our toddlers that when we have to leave them in a strange place with other strangers, that it hurts us as much as it hurts and scares them â€“ sometimes us parents feel it even more! But...
As much as separation anxiety or leaving your child even if only for a little while can really hurt and our toddler may seem devastated, their carers really are telling the truth when they tell you they only cried for a few minutes and then had a great day! Of course sometimes it is a different story but for the most part, it always ends up OK and our own behavior plays a big part in how they deal with the separation.
Have a read of the tips below and see how you go!
1. Take charge and stay in control!
This is your number one priority in reducing toddler separation anxiety! It goes without saying that you will feel scared, worried, concerned or emotional just as much as they do. You cannot however show this emotion as it will set your toddlers fears right off!
What worked for us was really talking up how much fun they were going to have and that we were sorry we were going to miss it!
2. The Art of Goodbye
The worst thing you can do is stretch out the goodbye with heaps of extra hugs and kisses and just general lingering to make sure they are OK.
This says to your child that you too are a bit worried about them and their surroundings which again will not let them comfortably settle.
All you need to do is give them a cuddle and kiss and confidently tell them that you are going now, that you will be back soon and for them to have a great day.
I have seen many parents try and use the quick escape approach. This is when you wait for your toddler to look away or pick up a toy and then quickly steal away while they are distracted. Your child is not stupid and sooner rather than later they will notice you are gone and have left them alone without saying goodbye. This breeds distrust quicker than anything.
3. Socializing is very calming and is one of the best ways to fight toddler separation anxiety.
It is far easier to leave your child in the hands of familiar and trusted people.
Socializing wherever possible with the carers at day-care in the small windows you get at the pickup and drop off or the whole center family fun days are invaluable for breaking the ice and getting to know both the teachers and the parents of other children.
If possible, try and organize some play dates with the other children in your child's class outside of the center. This will allow them to see more familiar faces when you drop them off and you too could make some new friends.
4. Make friends with the Teacher
You have just dropped off your most prized and loved possession! Does it not make perfect sense to try and make friends and build a relationship between you and your toddler's teacher or carer? They do not have to win you over and in fact it is the other way around.
Being friends with the teacher will make sure that your toddler picks up on the positive vibes and as a result trusts them as well further leading to a reduction in toddler separation anxiety.
Additionally, you will always hear more specifics about their day, problems they may have had and be much more successful in organizing meetings or time to see them in order to discuss your child.
5. To reduce the chance of toddler separation anxiety, Be There On Time!
We have already discussed the way that long goodbyes can cause toddler separation anxiety but a late pickup can do just as much damage.
Your child, just like every other child in that room will always look to the door in anticipation to see whose Mommy or Daddy has arrived to collect them every time it opens.
Like getting picked last for school sports teams, it is awful to be the last one left especially if it happens regularly. As much as you can, try and be on time for the pickup and try not to leave them til last very often.
Toddler separation anxiety is just another challenge on the road of parenthood but with the right strategies and helpful tips you will get through it with flying colors and move on to your next terrible twos (or 3's, 4's and beyond!) challenge!
There is heaps of other great info like this to help you get through the terrible twos stage and beyond in the amazing program recommended by TheTerribleTwos.org.
If you haven't checked it out already then Talking To Toddlers is a great audio program which is so easy to listen to and implement and is packed full of really helpful stuff!
Learn heaps more about the terrible twos, parenting toddlers and solve toddler separation anxiety with the Talking To Toddlers program!