Bonding with your little one is a wonderful experience for both of you...until the day you discover that she doesn't want anyone else to babysit or care for her. As Circle of Moms member Robin V. shares of her daughter, "she only wants me and her father. When I give her to someone else, she cries and wants me back."
This kind of reaction is perfectly normal for a toddler. Says Krista E.: “The reason why she's crying and wanting you is because she's undergoing a very normal process called ‘separation anxiety.'”
Still, for most moms, it's heart-wrenching to walk out the door and leave a toddler in tears. To make the out-the-door transition easier for both of you, try these seven separation anxiety tips from Circle of Moms members.
1. Prepare Your Child
The best way to get out the door without triggering a stream of tears is to prepare your child in advance and explain that you will be back soon. Lindsay W. a working mom of a toddler son, advises that you "let them know you will be back, and let them calm down on their own. Don't go rushing back, or the screaming will not improve.”
Krista E. agrees. She recommends coaching your child before the actual departure. “Games of peek-a-boo can help your daughter learn that even if you temporarily disappear, you always come back.”
And Mia B. points our that "Separation anxiety may be worse when a child is hungry or tired," and suggests feeding your child and letting him nap before you leave.
2. Introduce a New Sitter Gradually
Several Circle of Moms members recommend helping your toddler get used to a new baby sitter or relative who will be doing the care giving by having them play together a couple times before you leave her alone. Then, when it's time to do the actual transfer, continue to ease them through it. Krista E. suggests keeping your child in your arms instead of just "immediately plunking her onto someone else's lap," which will reassure her that she's safe and give her a chance to warm up to the new person. "It makes sense when you think about it: we often just hand a baby over to an auntie or cousin or friend. But your kid doesn't know that person. How is she supposed to know that this person is safe? She doesn't, so she freaks out. Be gentle, and encourage her, but don't push too hard. She'll grow out of it.”
3. Only Leave Your Child with Familiar People
Another way to ease the anxiety is to only leave your child with people they know fairly well, such as an aunt or neighbor they see frequently. Rebekah F. explains that while your child may still protest when you leave, his discomfort will evaporate faster: "He might adjust more easily to your absence when surrounded by well-known faces.”
4. Have the Sitter Distract Your Child
Some moms find that distractions calm the storm. Mia B. suggests encouraging the caretaker or sitter to try to engage the child in play right away so that he is less focused on your departure.
5. Create a Fun Goodbye Ritual
Finally, many moms find that creating a goodbye ritual is very helpful. “Rituals are reassuring and can be as simple as a special wave through the window or a goodbye kiss,” says Jocey Y. Another common ritual: have your toddler literally push you out the door. Or try Circle of Moms member Elfrieda's playful approach. Her goodbye ritual includes this game: “My son liked me to swing him up to the new person's face (they say "boo" or "hi" or "peek") and then away again a couple of times, ending up with me swinging him up and into their arms.“
Related Reading: 5 Tips for Easing Your Baby's Separation Anxiety
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