Coping with Separation Anxiety

41

Entering into a new child care arrangement can be an emotional experience for both parent and child. However, careful planning, and the knowledge that some separation anxiety and tears are normal, can make the transition from parent to caregiver as pleasant as possible. How quickly the child adapts depends on a number of factors including: the child’s age and stage of development; the child’s past experiences in the care of others; the skills of the new caregiver and appropriateness of the new setting; and the adults’ ability to prepare themselves and the child for the separation. Here are some strategies to help make the process go smoothly.

Share information with the caregiver

Share your child’s unique likes, dislikes, fears, eating/sleeping habits and anything else that will help the caregiver understand your child, ease the transition and provide care that is reasonably consistent with yours.

Entering into a new child care arrangement can be an emotional experience for both parent and child.

Visit the new setting with your child

Show children where they will be eating, sleeping, playing and introduce the new caregiver. Familiarity will make the actual separation easier. Preschoolers may enjoy having a book read to them about going to child care.

Shorten the first few days

Shorter visits will give your child more time to adjust and will allow him to learn by experience that you will return.

Build trust

Let your child see you and the caregiver building a friendly relationship. Include the three of you in a brief conversation or play activity. Children often use their parents as a “bridge” for developing a relationship of trust with a new adult.

Prepare the night before

An unhurried, pleasant start to the day is crucial to successful separations. If the child is old enough, involve her in the packing of lunches and the selection and laying out of clothes. For young children, a choice between two items (e.g., white or blue socks, grapes or an apple) is enough.

Something from home

Young children often use an object from home (such as a favourite teddy or blanket) to comfort themselves. Other children prefer to put a family photo or parent’s familiar scarf or glove in their pocket or backpack. Eventually, the need for these “cosies” or transition objects diminishes.

On the way, the first day

Have a calm, positive attitude. Babies and toddlers are especially sensitive to your moods and are quick to pick up any tension in your voice, face, touch or mannerisms. Sing a favourite song or talk about what the child or you will be doing today. A specific detail (“I will be taking the elevator upstairs to talk to the boss”) is far more interesting than a vague comment (“I will be working at the office all day”). In terms the child will understand, explain when and where you will be picking him up (“After lunch and sleep, I will come. You will probably be playing outside then. I will know where to find you”). A common fear is that you will not return or that you will not find each other.

Develop a “goodbye” ritual

Rituals are reassuring, especially during stressful times. Plan a special way to say goodbye, such as a wave through the window or a lipstick kiss stamped on the back of the child’s hand. You might ask your older child, “How shall we say goodbye? A kiss or a hug? One hug or two?” Giving them choices in little matters helps them feel that they have some control over what is happening.

Take time to say goodbye

Leave your child with a positive picture of what you will do together at then end of the day (“Save a big hug for me when I pick you up! Then we’ll get your brother at school”). Regardless of how tempting it may seem, never sneak out while the child is distracted. This destroys trust and will encourage the child to cling more on future occasions.

Avoid repeated goodbyes

Once you say “I’m leaving now” and go through the established goodbye ritual, then go. Stalling can make the child more fearful and clingy.

Accept and listen to negative feelings

If you or your child are feeling upset about the separation, reassure yourself that you have taken all the required steps to place your child in a safe, nurturing and stimulating setting. Telling children that they are too big to cry or that they are making a fuss over “nothing” only aggravates their fears and fails to help them understand their true feelings. Saying, “I know you are feeling sad. I will miss you too,” is more helpful.

Accept the fact that a temporary period of adjustment and some feelings of parental guilt or worry are normal. If it would help, arrange for you and the caregiver to communicate by phone during the day to “see how things are going.” Stress from separations and adjusting to new situations can be a real strain for parents and their little ones. However, with careful planning, the adjustment period can be brief.


Canadian Child Care Federation. Copyright © 2021 Canadian Child Care Federation. Some Rights Reserved. User Agreement – Privacy Policy 

similar posts

about us

We are a community of early childhood educators committed to achieving excellence in early learning and child care.

popular posts

Statement on Kamloops 215

Read the CCCF’s statement regarding the mass grave found on the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Click to access the login or register cheese Scroll to Top

share

Share on facebook
Share on email
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Share on facebook
Share on email
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on print

Supporter membership rate $45 CAD. Join now!

Annual Membership rate $65 CAD.
Join now!

Annual Membership rate $65 CAD.
Join now!

Annual Membership rate $90 CAD.
Join now!

Annual Membership rate $0 CAD with the code from your local affiliate. Join now!

Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) are incredible professionals that have rewarding, important and demanding careers. They work with young children (and their families), ages 0-12, nurturing and educating them, observing and planning for their growth and development while ensuring that they are healthy. They create interactive and dynamic learning environments where children develop social skills, develop cognitive skills and foster lifelong learning. ECEs work in child care centres, classrooms, home child cares, preschool, and parent drop-in programs. You do not need a teaching degree to be an ECE, but you do need your ECE diploma.

If you’re just starting out:

  1. Get certified!
  2. Find the requirements for your province or territory
  3. Write your resume and begin your job search. We’ll provide tips on this soon. 
  4. Get your vulnerable sector check and first aid training

Join our Facebook Group and meet other ECEs who may be able to answer your questions

All licensed and regulated quality child care programs in Canada require these for the safety and security of children and families.

On our provincial and territorial map we link to child care associations in your area. Follow the link to your association and join today. The associations provide valuable information to anyone starting out in their career. Even experienced ECEs can benefit. You’ll also enjoy valuable member benefits like discounts, meet other ECEs, and become a part of the child care movement in Canada.


If you join your provincial or territorial affiliate, you’re automatically also a member of the CCCF.

With your resume and cover letter ready (we’ll provide guides for this soon), contact child care centres and introduce yourself! You can call, email, or even message them on social media. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get a reply. Try again a few days later to give them your resume in person. Remember that due to safety reasons you need to call first. Tell them you live in their area, and that you’re looking for a position.

Anyone working in licensed child care has to apply for certification. You will find certification information for your province or territory on our child care certification page.