Many toddlers receive care from a caregiver other than their parent at some point, whether this is a grandparent, family friend, babysitter, nanny, therapist, or other professional caregiver. Some children go to daycare, while others receive care in their home. Each situation can be difficult for the toddler and her parent. These tips will give you the tools necessary to deal with the separation, and help your toddler and new caregiver get it right from the start.
10 Ways To Help Your Child Adjust To A New Caregiver:
- Separation begins long before the actual event. Make yourself familiar with the childcare setting and routine in advance. A few days before starting childcare, talk to your toddler about what she will do while she is there, the caregivers, and other children that will be part of the child care experience.
- Introduce your child to the caregiver and new setting before child care actually begins.
- Discuss with the caregiver your child’s preferences, strengths, vulnerabilities, your values and your approach to discipline. It’s also a good idea to share special events and recent milestones with the caregiver, which can later be discussed and will enhance the relationship between the caregiver and child.
- Build strong communication with the caregiver that will lead to a solid partnership on behalf of the child.
- Give your child something from home or that reminds her of you to take with her to child care. Transition objects provide the toddler with a tangible, concrete representation of the parent and home. This could be a photo or letter from you, a toy, or something that is meaningful within the family.
- If at all possible, start with a brief separation and progressively increase the time apart from your toddler as she adjusts to the new setting.
- Arrive at childcare with enough time so that you can stay for a while as your toddler settles in. Dropping off and leaving right away can be unsettling and upsetting. On the other hand, parents who have trouble leaving can be persuaded by the child’s pleas to “stay a little longer.” Doing so, particularly when the parent really needs to leave, can be confusing to the child because of the contrast between what the parent says and does. Staying longer is appropriate if it is planned and when the time is spent talking about the separation or helping the child transition to the caregiver, to a peer, or to a fun activity.
- Talk about the feelings of separation and the pleasures of being together with your child. Separation anxiety is normal and intensifies between 12 and 18 months of age. Acknowledging these feelings directly and sympathetically is the best way to cope with them. Calmly assure the toddler that she will be well cared for and will have a good time. Stress that you will return. Plan what you will do when you are together again.
- Be prepared to encounter signs of ambivalence or stress from your toddler after the reunion. This may also be accompanied by clinging or refusal to let the parent out of sight. Recognize your child’s fear of separation in unusual forms such as night awakenings, toileting accidents, tantrums, or low threshold of frustration. Awareness that such responses may occur can help reduce the parents’ stress and promote a calm and sympathetic response to the child.
- Play games that build mastery of separation experiences, such as hide-and-seek, peek-a-boo, and hiding/recovering objects. These playful games strengthen the child’s sense of object permanence (the knowledge that people and things continue to exist when they are out of sight).Direct experiences with reunion after separation promotes the toddlers’ developing ability to understand that even though their parent is not physically present, they will return.