We’ve all seen them…
The tears— you know which ones we’re talking about. The pouty cries your child releases when they’ve realized… you’re going to leave!
We know them, we hear them. Let’s talk about them.
Overcoming separation anxiety is a process that takes some time, but this document contains some helpful tips that can ease the drop-off transition for both you and your little one.
It’s not just you. (And we don’t mind!)
So many of our families are struggling with separation anxiety, and you are definitely not alone. Typically beginning around nine months of age (but sometimes as early as four or five months), most children experience some difficulty coping with drop-off.
As you may know, separation anxiety is an important part of children’s development that actually has some pretty sweet motivation (despite the angry wailing in your ear). It typically begins once they’re capable of understanding that you’re no longer around, and it’s a sign of a healthy and secure attachment.
For many of our Littles, this is their first time spending time away from you. Up until now, Mom or Dad has always been within sight. You are the sun to their solar system! So what can you do to help?
Surprises can be scary. Help your little one anticipate what’s coming next by being as consistent with your routine as possible and talking about what’s coming up next in the day. Giving plenty of notice that a transition or change is approaching will help your Little feel more in control. For example, as you are eating breakfast, let them know that next you will put on shoes, get in the car, and go to Le Village to play!
Mommy/Daddy will be back.
When your child sees that you are leaving, their anxiety can be triggered by the fear of being left without you. Before the tears well up, use simple language to reassure your Little that you will be returning soon. You can try “Mommy will be back later” or “Daddy always comes back.” As you establish this new routine, your child will come to understand this promise and leaving will become a less dramatic event.
Develop a ritual.
For children learning to communicate, it can be very helpful to develop a “good-bye ritual.” Come up with a special goodbye with your Little that is all their own. It can be as simple as a kiss on both cheeks, a unique handshake, or a specific song that you always sing at drop-off. This reinforces the routine and helps your child know what to expect. If you would like some sweet inspiration, try reading the book The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. (Trust me, it’s adorable.)
Practice at home.
Practice your ritual at home in a calm and safe space where your child feels secure. Use simple language to explain, “After we sing the good-bye song, Daddy will be leaving for a while. Daddy will always come back.” For parents of Explorers and Learners, experiment with letting your child practice their independence. For example, next time they want to follow you into the kitchen while you clean up after dinner, practice your goodbye ritual and reassure them. For example, “You are safe playing here in the living room, and Daddy will always come back.” It can be a slow process, but it will get easier. Children are extremely adaptable, and these self-regulation skills that you are helping them to develop are incredibly valuable. It will pay off.
Where’s Mommy? There she is!
Somehow this game never gets old! Playing Peek-A-Boo with your Little can be a fun and easy way to remind them that you are always there, even when they can’t see you.
Time to go.
This is easily the most difficult and the most important part. Once you’ve said goodbye, reassured your child that you’re coming back, and performed your ritual — it’s time to go. Children can sense your anxiety, and it will make them anxious, too. So stay calm, close the door behind you, and we’ll take it from there… even if there’s some tears. (We don’t mind, really. Comforting Littles is our specialty!) If you leave and come back when the tears come, it communicates to them that crying will make you reappear and will only worsen their tears and ultimately their anxiety.
Usually, your child will be happily playing within minutes. Once you’ve established that you are leaving, it is much harder for us to soothe your Little if you linger or re-enter the space.
Emotions run higher when children are hungry, tired, or uncomfortable. This can make transitions even more difficult. If your Little has been having a particularly tough time at drop-off, try to make sure they are full, well-rested, and have a clean diaper or have recently used the bathroom before you go.
A special lovey, stuffed animal, pacifier, or perhaps one of Mom’s soft sweaters or Dad’s t-shirts — a well-loved item from home can often help soothe your child as they transition into a new environment. Older children may enjoy picking a favorite book to bring to class to read with their teacher and friends. Take it a step further and only offer this extra special object when they come to Le Village. It gives them something to look forward to!
You might try taking a photo of your child with their teacher to keep at home. You can look at this photo with your Little throughout the day and before bed. As you do this, they will begin to recognize their new teacher and friend. Be sure to remind them that they can trust their teacher to keep them safe.
Give it time.
Our team at Le Village is accustomed to the tears; we know where they’re coming from and how to soothe them. When you put your child in our care, you can rest assured that we will love them as our own. We know that children must be met with lots of compassion and affection during these tricky transitions. With enough time and patience, every child gets through it. You can trust us to ease their anxiety with the greatest empathy and love until they are settled — no matter how long it takes!
Separation Anxiety Disorder
It is typical for children to overcome separation anxiety by two to three years of age. However, roughly 4% of children may suffer from prolonged separation anxiety. If you think your child may suffer from Separation Anxiety Disorder, we’d be happy to provide some resources for extra support.
Hopefully these tips can help ease your child’s transition into Village Care. Above all else, remember: you know what is best for your child. Trust your instincts, and we are here for you every step of the way. We love your Littles, and we are so happy to support you and your child through this next stage in their development.