Creative Ideas for Easing Separation Anxiety by Nicole Brekelbaum
Does your child exhibit separation anxiety at daycare drop-off? Do you spend more than fifteen minutes struggling to calm your child’s fears? You are not alone. All parents at one time or another have experienced guilt, fear and remorse at the very thought of leaving their hysterical child in the arms of a non-relative.
Separation anxiety affects both parents and children. Children display their discontent and fears by throwing temper trantrums, clinging onto parents for long periods and ignoring attempts by their daycare provider to calm their fears. Parents display separation anxiety by hesitating to exit the daycare, clinging onto their child for prolonged periods and performing disappearing acts when their child is not looking.
To help ease separation anxiety, change must start with the parents. Parents must first calm their own fears and insecurities. When children see parents more relaxed and confident at drop-off they begin to slowly warm up to their daycare provider and adjust to their new daycare setting. Parents can plan ahead of time by using some of these creative ideas to help ease separation anxiety.
Temporary Tatoos …
Visit your local grocery store and ask your child to choose a temporary tatoo of his favorite cartoon character. At bedtime discuss going to daycare with your child. Offer to place the tatoo on his hand as a special reminder that you are with him always. Remind him at drop-off that when he looks at the tatoo, he will know that you love him dearly and will soon pick him up after work.
Popsicle Treats …
Popsicles, especially on hot days, are a great treat for children. Purchase a pack with a variety of primary and secondary colors. Use the popsicles to teach him about secondary colors. Show him that two primary-colored popsicles can combine to form a secondary-colored popsicle. At daycare drop-off ask your child which color he would like to have at the end of the day. Ask him which flavor he thinks is associated with that color. Reassure him that he will be receiving his treat at the end of the day and that you will share precious time with him after returning from work.
Surprise Boxes …
Keep surprise boxes in your vehicle. Explain to your child that he may open the surpise box if he is good throughout the week. The surprise box may contain baby photos of your child, his favorite storybook, a favorite snack and a simple craft item that he can quickly put together.
Healthy Snacks …
Visit your local grocery store with your child and ask him to choose a variety of healthy kid snacks that he will pack and carry to daycare. Many children who are adjusting to daycare need something familiar to hold onto as they try to feel secure and comfortable being away from parents. If your daycare provider prepares meals, gradually reduce the number of snacks in your child’s lunch box until your child starts eating the foods prepared at the daycare.
Bedtime Stories …
Visit your local library and borrow books that focus on children going to daycare. Read these books at bedtime. From the pictures in the storybook your child will see other children going to daycare and will understand that he is not the only one experiencing separation anxiety. Ask your child about his day at daycare and try to determine if he is adjusting slowly or not adjusting at all. After a week or two most children adjust nicely to new daycare settings. For some children it may take longer.
If you suspect that your child is still not adjusting try to drop by the daycare unannounced to see if your child is interacting with the other kids. Look at his interaction with the daycare provider and the types of activities he is engaged in. Discuss any of your concerns with your daycare provider and allow time for adjustment. If there is no change after about a week or two try looking into other childcare options which may be better suitable for your child.
About The Author
Nicole Brekelbaum is the director at Young Achievers Inc. – A home-based learning center for aspiring youth located in Pflugerville, Texas. She has been providing childcare in her home since her career switch from working engineer to childcare director and mom.