Thursday, December 31, 2009

Separation Anxiety - Toddlers & Day care

Many times parents write and describe their angst over leaving their toddler at day care. Sometimes toddlers cry and scream when left even for a few hours in a daycare.



Well this is good news. It usually means they miss you when you are not with them. They are attached and bonded to their parent. What I explain to parents is that a baby/toddler/child has a different perspective of time than an adult does. Children usually do not have a concept of a clock and timing until they are approximately 8 years of age (give or take a year or two).




Before children learn to tell time they base their perceptions of their day upon processes. What happens next? This is why consistent routines are essential to children. They need to know not what time it is when they move to the next activity, they need to know which activity is coming next. Schedules and routines are not the same thing. Schedules are foreign to children and often parents place a heavy emphasis on scheduling a baby/toddler/child who is incapable of fluxing with the change in routines.



Sometimes parents whose child has had a consistent routine will write me with a description of a sudden onset of screaming and acting out behaviors which are new to their child. Almost always when I question them there has been some upset in the child's normal routine.



What can parents do to support a child who is suffering from separation anxiety? For little ones I suggest sending an article of clothing that belongs to the parent and Smells like mom or dad. Placing a picture of the caregiver where the child can see the picture and self soothe during the day is another great example of providing support during their day.



Remember when you were small how long a day could be? While you are working, running errands or just taking a break time moves very quickly. For a child who is mourning your absence the time ticks by very slowly. An hour can seem like an entire day!



In addition to providing daytime support, check the child's morning and evening routine. Make sure that although you maybe in a hurry you do not drop a part of the morning routine and expect your child to adjust. If you skip a step, you need to expect some fallout! The same with evening routines. Having a consistent and nurturing evening/bedtime routine is essential to keeping things on an even keel. Your child will feel safer and you will benefit as well!