Separation anxiety is a difficult beast. One day your child will be happily running into daycare, and the next day they are screaming because you are leaving. Anxiety during a drop-off will usually affect all children at some point in their lives. As a parent, it’s helpful to know what to do when this happens.
Ages Separation Anxiety are Most Common
Some experts believe that there are certain phases where your child is more susceptible during drop-off. The earliest signs of separation anxiety can start as young as 6-7 months. Typically, you’ll see it occur in most babies around 10-18 months and ending around 24 months. Anxiety occurs most commonly when you leave your child. This means that drop-off isn’t the only thing causing them anxiety. Leaving to run errands and even putting them at bed at night can cause them to become upset.
Separation anxiety can also reoccur during your child’s preschool years. (Just when we thought we were through with it!) This relapse usually is shorter, only lasting a few weeks. Relapses during this time are usually caused by a life change. Dropping off a child can be more difficult if, for example, a new sibling has been born, you’ve moved, or any other life stressors.
A preschool teacher recently mentioned to us that a 3-year-old in her class was worried her mom would be late. The week before her mom got a flat tire while she was in the car. The 3-year-old was afraid this would happen again and her mom would be late. Her fear of a flat tire made dropping-off harder! Once the mom found out what the problem was, it was easy to reassure her daughter that even if she was late, the teacher would stay with her until she got there.
What Can You Do to help with Separation Anxiety?
Always Say Goodbye
Make sure to give your child a hug and kiss when you leave. Although sneaking out the door may seem easier, it’s harder on your child when they realize you are missing. Let your child know when you are going and when you are coming back. Don’t prolong the goodbye, make it quick and easy. Staying too long when saying goodbye adds to your child’s separation anxiety during goodbyes.
It’s hard to stay positive when your child is screaming for you to stay. Just remember that your child will react more if you react to them. If you’re upset, wait until you have left before you show emotion. You will get through this and so will your child!
Don’t Go Back Into the Room
Going back into the room will only prolong their fear of you leaving. If you need to, hang out in the hallway or in your car until you feel like they are calm enough for you to leave. Coming back for lunch or during your breaks might need to be skipped during this time too. Leaving is hard for your child, so try to minimize how often you come and go at their daycare.
Consider Bringing a “Lovey”
Sometimes bringing an object from home can help your child feel comforted during the day. While most children may have a blanket or a stuffed animal, other items work as well. A child we know recently brought a picture of his mom and dad to school to hold when he felt scared. If your child doesn’t have a lovey yet, consider helping them find one! If they are too young, find one for them!
Check-In with your Daycare Provider
Separation anxiety during drop-off time isn’t just hard for the kids. It’s hard on the parents too! Have your daycare give you a call letting you know when your child has calmed down. Most of the time, your child will calm down within 10-15 minutes! If you are still worried, check-in throughout the day to see how they are doing. If they are still struggling, ask your daycare for help! They are experts in dealing with children and are a great resource for information!
Make A Big Deal About Coming Back
Let your child know how happy you are to see them! Coming for pick-up is a great time to let your child know you always come back! Most parents are surprised to see a smiling child who doesn’t want to leave!
Over time your child will get used to having you leave again. Although it can be hard, remember that it is just a phase! All children go through separation anxiety at some point in their lives. You are not alone. By following our tips, you’ll both get through it in no time!