A recent study showed that during COVID-19, women spent more time providing unpaid childcare and housework when compared to men. Because of this, less than half (46.9% of women) were a part of the workforce. That’s why childcare is so important during these times.
However, this time can be hard for your child, and they might develop daycare separation anxiety. Luckily, there are ways to help a child with separation anxiety and make daycare fun and easy. Keep reading to learn more!
What Is Daycare Separation Anxiety?
Separation anxiety is considered normal for children under the age of three. As children become more independent, they will grow out of this stage. However, there are cases where children have a separation anxiety disorder.
Separation anxiety disorder is described as prolonged fear of abonnement. This disorder sometimes follows a child into adulthood if not treated correctly. Nevertheless, in most cases, a child has regular separation anxiety.
Why Do Kids in Daycare Get Separation Anxiety?
The causes for daycare separation anxiety can vary from case to case. But, most often, children experience daycare separation anxiety because they have stranger anxiety.
This happens because, during the first few months of life, a child only knows his or her parents. But once a child is exposed to different environments and people, they will naturally become wary of their surroundings.
These external triggers cause children to have stranger anxiety and inadvertently cause them to have separation anxiety as well. These fears can be concurrent to each other, so they both need to be addressed by the parent.
Other Causes for Daycare Separation Anxiety
Knowing how to deal with separation anxiety as a mom is essential for your child’s well-being. But first, you need to know about your child’s triggers and how they affect them in daycare.
For starters, daycare can sometimes be too loud and hectic for a child, causing their brains to overstimulate. This, in turn, causes anxiety during drop-off time.
A good way to get your child ready for hectic environments is by slowly socializing with them. For example, going to a busy grocery store can actually be very beneficial to a child’s development. Engage with your child by pointing at apples or cool signs.
Children learn by mimicking their parents. So ensure that your child is watching all of your interactions. You could also add them to your conversation.
For example, if it’s time to pay, have your child read you the total. You can also add in some hands-on experience by having them take the receipt. Overall, these experiences will help your child be more confident in social interactions!
Treating Stranger Anxiety
Getting your child comfortable around strangers should be the very first step towards a resolution. This will be especially hard if your child was born during the COVID-19 outbreak and hasn’t had much time socializing.
Nevertheless, there are small steps you can take to relieve these worries in a child. For starters, you should always approach a new situation gradually.
For daycare centers, you can tour and meet the teachers during enrollment. It’s also recommended that you bring your child to this meeting. This way, he or she can get acquainted with the new environment and the caregivers.
During the tour, spend extra time with the assigned caregiver at the daycare. Your child will observe the interactions between you and the caregiver, so keep it playful and light!
Even if you’re still in the room, your child may still have some reservations. This can be frustrating but remember to keep it calm and gradual. Pushing a child to be comfortable around strangers will only cause them to have even more anxiety in future situations.
But don’t get discouraged! If you present a calm, playful, and fun environment, they will slowly come around to the idea.
Creating a Night Schedule Can Help Ease Anxiety
Some great mom tips for dealing with separation anxiety are creating a set routine and following it every day! By having a routine, the child feels in control and knows exactly what’s coming next. There are no surprises which mean there are fewer triggers.
If you have a sleep-trained baby, setting a night and morning routine will be a lot easier. You can still set a routine even if your baby isn’t sleep trained; it may just take some extra positive reinforcement!
For a nighttime routine, try following these steps:
- Bathtime around 8 o’clock
- Get ready for bed
- Nighttime story and cuddles
- Leave the room and allow the child to fall asleep on their own
This is just a sample of a basic and easy nighttime routine. Depending on the age of your child, this can be adjusted. The important part is that you follow the routine every day at the same time.
Morning Schedule With Positive Attitudes
The goal for a night/morning routine is to create repetitiveness to get the child ready for their day. Here are some ways to prepare your kid for their first day of daycare:
- Wakeup and cuddle
- Get ready, brush teeth, and eat
- Get everything ready for daycare or school
- Be in the car by a set time
- Play fun music during the car ride
- Walk your child inside and say a quick goodbye
In the morning, try and keep a positive and fun attitude. Getting a child excited for their day will decrease any anxieties they might have!
How to Be Good At Goodbyes
A short and sweet goodbye can go a long way. This can be very hard for you and your child but is very beneficial for their development. Fortunately, the best daycare centers will have a “goodbye window.”
A goodbye window is placed on the top half of the door and creates a subtle distance between the parent and child. Often this window is used as a transitional phase for kids who are having a tough time.
The parent will leave the classroom and say their goodbyes on the other side of the door. This way, the child still feels safe but knows the parent has to leave eventually.
The parent can still kiss and give them a quick hug before saying goodbye and leaving. The child may throw a tantrum, but you mustn’t go back and comfort them.
At this point, it’s the caregiver’s job to soothe your child. This will create a secure bond with the child and caregiver, and over time, your child will begin to trust the caregiver.
Have a Positive Tone Every Time
Saying goodbye can become harder if your child senses negative emotions. Children are very intuitive and know when you’re anxious, sad, or angry. So during goodbye time, have a positive tone and a big smile.
If your child sees that you are upset, they will associate your negative emotions with goodbye time. This will cause them to have even more anxiety about daycare.
Bring Their Comfort Items
A good way to prepare your kid for their first day of daycare is by giving them a stuffed animal. This may seem odd, but some parents will rub their smell onto a teddy bear and give it to their child.
Just like animals, humans have senses that are triggered by smell. So by having a stuffed animal that smells like you, the child will be able to self-soothe while still having some support.
You could also give them a photo of you or the whole family. But, again, having a familiar object or picture can have something to hold onto instead of your hand.
How to Say Goodbye to an Infant
For children under the age of one, saying goodbye is a lot easier. Mostly because they aren’t as aware of what’s going on; nevertheless, an infant may still cry or fuss once you put them down.
If your infant does this, you should try distracting them until they get to a calmer state. You can do this by showing them their favorite toy or maybe putting on some music.
Don’t linger for too long; once your infant reaches a calmer state, say a quick goodbye and leave.
Tips for Parents With Separation Anxiety
We talked about how to help a child with separation anxiety, but what about the parent? As stated previously, a child will pick up on their parent’s emotional distress. Therefore, it’s important for you as a parent to relieve your own anxieties.
If you’re experiencing separation anxiety, try and alleviate your symptoms by spending quality time with your child. You can have a set schedule where you and your child have activities planned.
Bonding with your child has been proven to release endorphins in your and your child’s brain. You could also start assigning more roles to your child.
For example, if you regularly pick their outfits and dress them, try letting them do this for themselves. This will grow their independence and confidence and will also help them become less of a dependent.
Children With Autism in Daycare
If you have a child with autism, relieving their separation anxiety might be harder because they rely on you more.
However, it’s not impossible, and with the right daycare center, your child can thrive can still thrive in this environment. For a child with autism, you want to carefully explain the daycare process to them.
Give them a time estimate for when you’ll be back for them and give them extra love. Because children with autism have a harder time socializing, daycare might stressful for them.
Therefore, you should talk to their caregiver beforehand, so they encourage play. Many times, children with autism prefer solo play, so ensure that your child has the right facilities and support for this at daycare.
The First Day Is the Hardest
Overall, the first day of daycare or kindergarten is the hardest to deal with. After a few days, children will get used to the repetitiveness and even become excited about daycare.
On the first day, remember to keep a positive attitude! If you need to cry, it’s best to do it away from the child’s sight. It seems harsh, but if a child sees you crying, it will only worsen their anxiety. Lastly, have a pep talk with them the night before or the morning of the first day.
When Should I Seek Professional Help?
As mentioned earlier, some children suffer from separation anxiety disorder which is a lot more serious. During a child’s development, she or he will pick up on cues from their parents. Therefore if the parent is anxious, guilty, or angry, the child will recognize these emotions.
Subconsciously a child will start having negative thought patterns about losing their parents or loved ones. This will cause immense emotional stress that will later develop into a separation anxiety disorder.
You should seek professional help if your child’s anxiety starts getting in the way of everyday routines. For example, if your child can’t sleep alone because of night terrors. Also, if they refuse to play with other children, even if you remain close by.
In serious cases, a child may experience vomiting or fainting when they are separated from their parent. If your child is experiencing these symptoms, seek professional help immediately.
When separation anxiety disorder goes untreated, the child will continue this anxious cycle in their adulthood. In addition, adults with untreated separation anxiety disorder often experience depression, mood swings, and even drug addiction to cope with their anxiety.
Overcoming Daycare Anxiety
By following these steps, you can decrease your child’s daycare separation anxiety. After all, creating self-sufficient children is the goal for every parent!
This process may be frustrating at times, but always remember to encourage your child and never push them into situations they are not ready for. If you liked this article, check out the rest of our website for more great reads!