Dropping your child off at an early education center can be very difficult for some children and for some parents. Some children separate readily, and others have a more difficult time. After you drop them off in hysterics, and peel them off your leg while they beg you not to leave, the sense of panic and guilt that sets in is overwhelming, causing you to question if you're doing the right thing or if your child is in the right setting.
In some cases, something may be wrong with the quality of your child's care, and as the parent you should never assume everything is okay. It's important to ask questions and do all you can to ensure your child is in a safe and happy environment every day.
However, most times children will go through an age-appropriate developmental period where they deal with separation anxiety from one or more of their full-time caregivers. This is a reflection of the healthy attachment and bond that you've created for them! On the other hand, some children skip right over this period and separate much more easily. You should not assume this is because they don't have a mature bond with you. It most likely lends to their sense of security and independent personality.
If you you fear your child will struggle with separation anxiety when going into an early education center, or perhaps you're currently dealing with the sad goodbyes, here are 5 methods to help you ease the separation anxiety problem:
METHOD 1: GRADUALLY PREPARE
Before starting in a childcare setting, begin leaving your child with someone other than a parent, even if you are just in another room in the house. Begin with just 5-10 minutes at a time and gradually increase the length of your absence.
METHOD 2: PREPARE YOUR CHILD FOR THE GOODBYE
Before leaving, tell your child beforehand that you are going to leave but will be back soon. Keep the "goodbye" brief and then leave, even if he/she cries or clings to you.
METHOD 3: REASSURE HER INSECURITY
Reassure your child that he/she will be okay while you are away. Talk to your child about their caregiver, point out the special fun they'll have in your absence, and give them some ideas of what he/she will do while you're gone. Acknowledge your child's feelings by saying, "I see that you're sad that I'm leaving, but I will be back in a few minutes" (or whatever the time frame is) in a very calm and matter-of-fact manner. If you seem apprehensive or worried or get frustrated with your child, it will only escalate the anxiety.
METHOD 4: CONFIRM YOUR RETURN
When you come back to the room, get down on your child's level, give your child a big hug, and tell your child you missed him/her without making it too emotional. Then look your child in the eyes and confirm that you came back just like you said you would.
METHOD 5: WORK OUT A PLAN
Work with your center to ensure that the staff is experienced in working with children and handling separation issues with sensitivity towards both the child and the parent. A good center will allow your child to begin with a shorter day (maybe even just an hour) as a transition. Working together, your child can have a positive goodbye experience.
At the end of it all, it's okay if your child cries when you leave. A good center will engage he or she right away, giving your child comfort and reassurance, and the sense of security and independence will grow over time in a healthy manner.
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