No parent likes to leave their child in someone else’s hands. But as hard as it can be on you, odds are good it’s even harder on your child. Read on for a few tips and tricks to help your toddler deal with separation anxiety.
Do the prep work
Before simply dropping off your child suddenly, lay the groundwork for a smooth transition. If possible, talk about the separation far ahead of time, and be as specific as you can. Children feel better when they know what to expect, so tell them exactly what they can expect to happen: where they’re going, with whom, and for how long. And, of course, always follow it up by telling them when either you are their other parent will be back to collect them.
Don’t dawdle at drop-off
Kids pick up on cues from their parents. That’s not to say you toddler will be all smiles at drop-off time just because you are; but the odds are better than if you sulk and show anxiety about it, too. So put on a happy face, use positive words and good body language, tell your toddler how much fun he’s going to have, make the drop-off, and then make a hasty getaway. But don’t run.
Leave him with a keepsake
If your toddler’s separation anxiety is especially peaked, consider leaving him with a little keepsake — a reminder of you. It can be anything from a photo of your, to a blanket with your scent on it, to a special something the two of you share. And, of course, if he has a security blanket or stuffed animal, bring that long, too.
Don’t diminish your child’s feelings
It’s all too easy to forget that toddlers don’t share our sense of the passage of time. Hours can seem like minutes when they’re having fun (five more minutes, mom, please?), or days when they’re not. Try to resist the impulse to rationalize what’s going on, as doing so can give them the message that their feelings aren’t valid.
Remind yourself that these strong reactions aren’t simply a toddler being dramatic; your toddler’s feelings, no matter how irrational, are nevertheless real to him, and must be taken seriously. Empathize with him by acknowledging his feelings and telling him it’s okay for him to feel them. And then remind him how much better he’ll feel when you come pick him up.
Most toddlers go through a stage of separation anxiety at least once, and many experience it several times. Remember to be patient with your child, and remember that even though it’s heartbreaking to leave your child when he’s sad, it would be even more heartbreaking to leave a child who doesn’t care that you’re leaving.