Article written by Emma Davies, Director Northern Beaches Council Roundhouse Children’s Centre
Separation anxiety can be a normal part of the settling in process when your little one starts in child care; but for many mums and dads this can be a very stressful and emotional time. Most babies begin to experience separation anxiety between 8 – 12 months, but this usually peaks between the ages of 1 – 2 years.
So why exactly do babies and children get separation anxiety? Separation anxiety occurs when a baby becomes aware of ‘object permanence’. This means when a baby begins to understand the concept that a person or an object still exists even when they are not physically present.
Although it can be very stressful for all involved, it is completely normal and one of the emotional stages of development for all babies and children. Fortunately the stage passes and your child will not always cry when they are dropped off.
Seven useful tips:
- When enrolling your child in a centre find out about their orientation process. Spend as much time as possible at the centre with your child, allowing you and your child to develop a relationship with the educators. This will also give you an insight into the day-to-day routine of the centre.
- When dropping your child off have a routine that they can help you with. For example, ‘Ok, let’s go and put your hat in the basket and your drink bottle on the table.’ Try and encourage your child to help with these tasks.
- Spend a few minutes with your child engaging in a favourite activity, be it reading a story or building with blocks.
- Even though it may be tempting to quietly leave whilst your child is engaged with an educator or another child, it is really important to say goodbye despite the fact they may cry. Say goodbye and then leave straight away. Dragging out the process can often make children more upset.
- Tell your child when you will be back, for example, ‘I will be back at afternoon tea time.’ This gives your child a time in the day and in their routine to expect your return.
- When your child first starts in care they will need their security items or comforters like dummies, teddies, blankets etc. Have a chat with the educators to discuss bringing in a family photo that may help your child?s transition into care.
- The most important point, and probably the most difficult, is to try not to be stressed or worried. Babies and children are closely tuned into how we are feeling. Be enthusiastic and happy and your child will generally feed off this energy. If your baby or child cries, try not to be upset in front of your child as this will tell them that there is something to be upset about.
Remember separation anxiety is a normal part of emotional development for all children. Each child is unique and has their own timeline on how long it will take for them to settle into a new environment with new faces. Be patient, consistent and be kind to yourself – you are doing a wonderful job!
Emma Davies is the Director of the Roundhouse Children’s Centre located at Fairlight. The centre offers a not-for-profit service provided by Northern Beaches Council.
Looking for child care? Enrol your child in one of Northern Beaches Council’s children’s centres and be confident that you are getting the best early learning care as well as excellent value for money.
Alternatively consider small group, home-base care with experienced family day care educators. Co-ordinated through Northern Beaches Council, educators care for up to four children in their own home with young children learning through play and social interaction.