“Mommy, don’t go!” It’s one of the most heart-rending things a parent can hear, but life demands that we separate from our toddlers and preschoolers at some point. For many parents, this means leaving their child with a caregiver or at preschool. Separation anxiety is hard on everyone but can be managed with the right tools.
Understand Why It Happens
Separation anxiety usually sets in around the first birthday. This happens because very young children are still learning the concept of object permanence—just because you can’t see someone or something doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Playing peek-a-boo or hiding games with babies and toddlers can help reinforce permanence.
Leave After Naps and Mealtimes
If your child is tired, hungry, or cranky, he or she will likely cling to you more. If possible, leave your child with a caregiver after mealtimes and naps. That way, he or she will have crucial needs met and be more content.
Have a Calm Goodbye Ritual
If you say goodbye the same way every time you leave, you’ll reduce the risk of crying and clinging. If the caregiver or preschool is agreeable, you can leave an object like a scarf with your child to remind him or her of you. Reassure your kids that you’ll be back, and stay calm and confident.
Everything gets easier with practice—separation included. Practice leaving your child with a caregiver for short periods or while you’re only a short distance away. Your child will begin to see that you return after you leave.