Helping your child adapt to daycare can be a challenge, especially when a child has been solely taken care of by parents and primary caregiver for the past few years. The transition can be a significant change for your child and adjustment can be a complicated process.
According to Katherine Nguyen Williams, PhD, separation anxiety is when “the child experiences intense fear of leaving her parents, which is often coupled with the fear of harm befalling the parents. This type of anxiety is associated with the fear of going anywhere without the parents and the child asking for her parents to come with her everywhere.”
Additionally, Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD, wrote, “[B]rain research suggests that it’s extremely difficult (if not impossible) for kids to think with logic or control their behavior until they step out of fight/flight/freeze mode.”
The good news is there are steps that you can take to adjust unfamiliar routines and make it an easier one. By doing these steps, it can also serve as a therapy for children to prevent undergoing too much stress and anxiety when they are left in daycare facilities.
Visit The Daycare Center With Your Child In Advance. If your child is sensitive to changes, this approach can help the child feel comfortable and at ease by gradually introducing him to the new place. Short, frequent visits can help the child become familiar with the new provider and with the other children. Make sure to communicate with the provider about the child’s daily requirement, specific behaviors to watch out for, and health concerns. Consistency in feeding and sleeping pattern is crucial. A similar structure of routine can make the child feel secure.
Bring A Comfort Item From Home. Familiar objects at home like a cuddly stuffed toy or a blanket can serve as soothers to your child. Favorite pieces can comfort a child when she is anxious while you are away. Sometimes a child’s separation anxiety peaks at drop-off. Here’s an excellent tip to address endless crying spells: You can leave them something from you that they can keep. Ask your child to take care of it while you are away. You can leave them your scarf, your photo or anything unusual that will remind them of you. Your lipstick on their hand when you say goodbye has a familiar scent attached to it.
Make Sure That Your Child Is Well-Rested with adequate sleep before her first day at daycare. Prepare an energy-boosting breakfast. On the way to the center, tell her how fun it will be for school and friends that she can meet there. Arrive at least several minutes ahead of time so he/she can settle and get too busy with activity and is not likely to protest when you leave.
Do Not Break Your Child’s Sense Of Trust. Cheerfully say goodbye and do not sneak out when your child isn’t looking. To leave secretly will create a more difficult problem, it may also raise a level of separation anxiety.
Stay A While in the anteroom and allow the child time to feel comfortable with the environment, with other kids and with her teacher. When you think that they are adjusting and are ready for you to leave them, you can go provided that this has been discussed with them ahead of time.
On Pick Up Time Greet Your Child Happy. Tell him that he did a good job and you are very proud of him.
It takes time for younger children to adapt to a new child care setting. Expect for a reasonable amount of adjusting time. Stay calm. Be more understanding and don’t reprimand for their struggles with separation. Don’t be frustrated. They will be back to their happy selves in time.
“Show compassion for your children who fuss at drop off—saying goodbye to their “home-base” is painful for them. It’s a life skill they must learn, but acknowledge that it’s a hard one,” wrote Kerry Stutzman, MSW, LMFT.
However, if your child is experiencing intense separation anxiety after several weeks, you might need to re-evaluate the daycare setting.