A new caregiving situation can be upsetting for both parent and child, but with some preparations and suggestions, parents and caregivers can work together to ease the transition.
An all too typical scene on the first day of a new caregiving situation is frightened child in tears, clinging to a parent’s leg. Parents often feel embarrassed or confused about what to do next. They may feel a mix of strong emotions: either sympathetic and angry toward the child for his protest, guilty for leaving the child, or perhaps questioning what they have “done wrong” since her friends children seem to be adjusting well to their nannies during the first days and weeks.
Separation is a developmental challenge. When adults take children’s feeling seriously, talk to them honestly, and give them lots of understanding support, children can learn ways to cope with separation successfully both now and in the future. Responding to “I want my mommy!” is only the beginning.
TIPS TO EASE SEPARATIONS
- To build trust, always tell your child the truth – that you are leaving but you will be back. Don’t disappear without notice. Sneaking out does not build trust! Say, “Mommy is going to work and I will come back to get you after your nap” (or whatever time, based on an activity in the child’s schedule).
- Stay calm and show confidence in your child, but get help if needed. Ask your child, “Can you say goodbye to me by yourself, or do you need (Nanny’s name) to help you.
- Develop a special goodbye ritual that you are your child share at every separation. It should be short, pleasant, and loving.
- Always talk to your child about happy experiences to expect in the new situation. Help your child look forward to a favorite activity or person.
- Keep a brief schedule of your child’s activities or discuss your child’s day with the caregiver as time permits. Use that information to reinforce the good times as you talk to your child. One of the least fruitful questions a parent can ask a child is, “what did you do in school today?” because the response is usually “Nothing.” But if you were to ask, “What did you do at the park today? you may open up an entire conversation about your child’s day.
- Prepare your child for a new separation by discussing it in advance.
- When the nannies first day arrives, be prepared for your own separation anxiety. Once you have said goodbye, leave. Prolonging your goodbye only makes things harder. If you are concerned about your child during the day, call your nanny. Most parents discover that all was well shortly after their departure.
- Watch for your child’s individual expressions of anxiety – wetting pants, thumb sucking, or other behavior that changes. Patience and understanding from parents and nannies will help your child cope with his feelings.
- Be prepared for separation anxiety to appear after a seemingly painless initial adjustment. (Many caregivers call this response “Second Week-itis”) Your child is now comfortable enough to show her true feelings. Don’t misgtake this apparent delayed reaction with indications that something is wrong with the caregiver and terminate the relationship with the nanny needlessly.