Thursday, July 19, 2012

My 2 year old is having separation anxiety, help!

Dear Kay,

My daughter is 2.5. She has been going to the same daycare lady for a year, 3 days a week and still cries like it's the end of the world every morning. I ask her why she doesn't want to go to Kim's and she just says because she wants to stay with Mommy or Daddy. She has never said anything negative about her day care lady. She's been very clingy to daddy lately to the point where we think she needs to spend more time with him but now I wonder if it will make it even worse. I don't have an option to stay home and the thought of her going to preschool anytime soon is scary if she can't handle this situation...


Dear Susie:

The upside of separation anxiety is she is truly attached to her caregivers. This is preferable to a child who doesn't care if her caregivers go away.

Her anxiety is more the issue here. She needs plenty of routines. Routines are incredibly important to young children as they have not sense of time. They rely on routines to tell them what comes next. Check your routines to make sure it is CONSISTENT. Consistent routines lower anxiety in children. Make sure you also have some fun times in your routine especially before she leaves in the morning for daycare.

I also suggest sending a small picture of you and her dad with her as well as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. She needs things that smell like you or her dad. This will help her during the day as her sense of time is not like yours. For you 5 minutes goes quickly for a child it is more like 5 months or years. So do whatever you can to show her you understand how much grief she is experiencing at her separation.

Sincerely,

M Kay Keller
Realize you may also be reinforcing her fears if you show more joy when you pick her up than when you drop her off. Parents often tense up when they know their child is going to cry at drop off and then they smile big and hug their child tight when they pick them up. So you can see how this reinforces the behavior of crying and anxiety.

When you drop her off make sure to tell her what time (daycare activity) you will be picking her up after. Make her drop off time more fun and less stressful for her and for you.