We’ve all experienced at least one gut-wrenching separation from our child as we were leaving them at childcare to head off to work or leaving them with a babysitter to go out to dinner. It’s hard, it’s sad, but it’s usually over by the time we’re pulling out the driveway. However, by partnering with your child’s caregiver and establishing a separation routine, there are some ways to minimize these episodes.
Tips for separating from your infant—at childcare or at home:
- Don’t rush the separation. Your child will pick up on your stress and may become agitated.
- Sit with your child for awhile so she can take in all of the activities and people in the room.
- When your child seems comfortable, let your caregiver take her. It’s nice for her to be in a devoted caregiver’s arms when you leave.
- Kiss and hug your child good-bye and then leave. Don’t waver; that only makes the situation more confusing for your infant.
- If your infant is crying when you leave, or even if she is not, feel free to call your caregiver when you arrive at work to see how she is doing.
Tips for separating from your toddler or preschooler—at childcare and at home:
- Greet the caregiver and other children as you enter the room.
- Spend time helping your child settle into an activity before engaging in extensive conversation with the caregiver. Children love to interact with their environment, so involving her in a play activity will help her transition more easily.
- Let your caregiver know how your child is doing that morning and if there is any change in her schedule.
Once your child is settled and happy, you can follow a goodbye ritual of one of the following:
- Sitting down and reading one book with your child, then hugging her and leaving.
- Drawing a picture with your child and letting her keep it.
- Sitting with your child while she engages in an activity with a friend. When she is fully engaged and settled, give her a hug and kiss and leave.
- Letting your child hold a picture of the family or something of yours as you leave. This may feel like a secure connection to you.
- Having the caregiver bring your child to the window or door to wave good-bye while you leave.
Try to create a departure ritual that you follow each day, whether it’s at childcare or at home. Soon this ritual will become familiar and your child will be comfortable with it. Let your caregiver help with the separation—signal when you are ready to leave so that they can hold and comfort your child if she is crying. Again, while separation from someone we love can be painful, we can ease the pain by a thoughtful partnership with caregivers.
Because your provider is a close partner with you and your spouse in the daily care and education of your child, take the time to invest in this relationship—it can be one of the most important ones in your family’s life. Talk to your caregiver each morning and at the end of the day if possible. Let them know how your child’s night went, what her mood is and if there are any unusual issues. At the end of the day, find out what your child enjoyed doing and learn about what the highlights or struggles of the day were.