How To Cope With Leaving Your Baby Or Toddler In Childcare For The First Time.
As was preparing to return to work after my maternity leave, I read a great American book called The Working Gal’s Guide to Babyville. I always remember the quote “Good childcare is the secret sauce of contented working parenthood”. And how true it is. Seeing your baby or toddler’s distress when you leave them in childcare for a day’s work can be upsetting, and hardly puts you in the right frame of mind for a happy and productive day’s work. Thankfully, there are many things you can do to minimise the upset on both sides and make this a positive daily event. It’s also a great opportunity to boost your child’s self-esteem and confidence – helping them learn to cope well with another life stage.
1. Prepare For Separation
Early On, At Home Playing simple games, such as peek-a-boo and hide and seek, will help your child understand that when they cannot see you, it doesn’t mean you are gone forever and you will return. Starting by hiding for a few seconds and building the process up slowly will be fun for both of you. You can also put favourite toys or teddies out of view and say ‘bye bye’, then find them together.
2. Help Your Child Develop A Secure
Attachment In order for a child to feel safe and secure, they need to be temporarily able to replace the strong attachment or bond that they have with you, with someone else. This is why most nurseries operate a key worker system, and why it is highly recommended that you have several settling-in visits, where you stay with your child long enough for them to form a relationship with their key carer. Resist the temptation to spend all the session playing with them and encourage them to find ways to interact with the carers. If you have chosen to employ a nanny or child minder, it is clearly easier to form personal relationships quicker (that is, if you have found the right person – and this will be a good test).
3. Leave Positively
How you react to leaving will have a huge impact on your child’s behaviour. You need to give out the message loud and clear: I am happy and relaxed about you being here. This is easier said than done in those early days, but start your leaving ritual on the way over to the nursery or child minder. This is key, as babies and toddlers thrive on routine. Talk about where you are going and what you will both do in a positive and excited way. It can also help to say the same thing each time – for example, I will come and pick you up after your tea and give you a big cuddle. When you are ready to leave, give a quick, firm hug with an ‘I love you’ or ‘Have a lovely time’ and leave with a smile on your face, without hesitation. It will take practice, but the carers are there to help you. How you behave towards your child can have a big impact on how they feel about going to their childcare. So, even if you do feel dreadful inside, put on a brave face for their sake. And remember that even very young children are probably more resilient than we give them credit for, so you may find they adapt quicker to the change than you do.