Question: - After a long break from day care (four weeks) my three hours doesn’t want to go anymore. She has been going to daycare three days a week for nearly two years and has rarely caused a problem but in the past two weeks has cried everytime she gets dropped off. What can I say to her to help transition her from holiday mode to back to routine/back to day care mode?
Nicole's Answer: - Having a child that is crying at daycare drop off after a nice long break is a sign that she has bonded closely with you over the break – this is separation anxiety. Despite your heartache at hearing her cry is a wonderful sign of her attachment to you. Children are meant to be strongly bonded to their parents and to find it difficult to separate at times. At certain times – certain ages they find it more difficult to cope with separating from you and this can come and go.
It certainly helps you as a parent to try and think about it from this point of view, it doesn’t really make it any easier to bear but I find it helps you understand. As for strategies and how to help your daughter, firstly acknowledge her feelings. By that I mean rather than saying ‘you’ll be right, you’ve been here for years’ etc where you are trying to move her on, talk to her about her feelings so something like ‘ we had a lovely holiday together and now when you go to daycare your finding it hard to say goodbye to mummy because you just want to stay with me. That’s okay, sometimes it happens after a nice holiday, i love you and miss you to and wish I could take you to work with me’. You are actually saying the words to her of what she is thinking and validating rather than brushing them aside and trying to move on. She will find this very reassuring and think to herself ‘mummy understands’.
Another great strategy is to give her something of your to take with her for the day and make a big deal presenting this to her and when she misses you and wants to be with you to just touch the item. I find a bracelet works well and if you don’t have a suitable bracelet a plastic junk bracelet will do the trick. Just be sure to let the daycare centre know from a safety point of view. Usually I find that they are more than happy to be accommodating if it helps your daughter separate from you. These are just two ideas of many that can be used for separation anxiety. If you would like more have a read through different separation anxiety articles on my website. Next, just be consistent with the drop off and stay for a few minutes but not too long before you leave. She will adjust.