If you’ve ever left your young child with a caregiver for the first time, you may already understand the challenge of childhood separation anxiety. It’s the emotional (usually temporary) turmoil that occurs when your child realizes that you’re leaving him behind. Unfortunately, if you’ve never left your child with a caregiver, they don’t know what to expect. Panic often ensues, complete with screaming, crying, pleading, or other dramatic behaviors.
Many children in daycare experience only mild separation anxiety. They blend into a new environment with few complications. Some children enjoy meeting new friends and sharing new learning and play opportunities. That’s particularly true when a daycare center provides a warm environment, an exciting program, and a caring staff.
Daycare providers understand that they can never replace a parent in a child’s heart and mind. However, they can take steps to give children an experience that makes them feel comfortable and loved.
Separation anxiety is a real thing
Separation anxiety is sometimes a natural outcome when children and parents separate. As the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry explains, it’s normal and often expected as a child grows and develops. Separation anxiety usually occurs among children aged eight months through preschool age. The signs vary but sometimes include:
- Sobbing and crying
- Irritability and anger
The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention’s page on Anxiety and Depression in Children also describes these and other behaviors as “typical” in young children. Physicians consider it anxiety when the behaviors become “persistent or extreme.” When older children experience persistent stress, it’s often a sign of a more serious problem that parents should discuss with their physician.
It’s a matter of lost love and trust
For children, love isn’t optional. That’s why early separations can be so traumatic. When they first experience the absence of parental closeness, it takes some time for them to figure out that it’s temporary.
Children react far differently when confronted with extended separations from loving, trusting families. They experience varying degrees of physical, psychological, and other effects. Long-term separations without love and attachment often lead to long-term damage.
Reducing your child’s separation anxiety
Separation anxiety is difficult for everyone involved, but it’s a natural part of a child’s development. Fortunately, for most children, it’s temporary. Nevertheless, everyone involved eventually adapts to recurrent family separations.
Once your child realizes that you will show up at the end of each day, he will begin to enjoy his day daycare experience. As a parent, you will learn new ways to help your child relax and have fun. In addition, you’ll find the best strategies for helping him prepare for each new day.
Professional caregivers frequently deal with separation anxiety. They have spent years learning how to provide ongoing care and support. They understand how to ease a child’s transition from extended time with their families to long days away from home. Daycare providers do their part to help each child thrive in their new early learning environment.
Contact The Learning Center
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