DAYCARE AND SEPARATION
As a new mom, I was always exhausted. I needed every moment I could get to rest. Ironically, when my child finally slept, I would go to his room 5 minutes into my well-deserved break because I missed him so much. As he became a toddler though I could stay away for longer than 5 minutes. 😂
For most parents, this is what separation feels like - being 'physically' away from our children.
This experience slightly differs for children.
For children, separation can be experienced from as little as a parent looking at their phone and paying no attention. Can you imagine what hours at daycare would feel like for them?? For our kids, the idea of separation still doesn't change when they become toddlers, they might get better at masking it, but the anxiety would remain the same.
When I picked up my 18-month-old from Daycare, he would burst out in tears… I later came to realize that was pent-up anxiety from the whole day and the cry was my son finally letting his guard down. As he got older, he would take a while for him to warm up after pick up. I thought this was normal… Then I found out what it was – Disconnection from separation.
When our children feel separated from us, they get disconnected from us and it's important to reconnect before anything else
I began to research ways to help him through it. I started implementing a few little things that changed his response to mood at pick up going forward.
This is what I've found.
BEFORE STARTING DAYCARE
Let your child know what is about to happen: This is something I sometimes overlook with my child. Sometimes I would just take him from point A to point B, completely ignoring the fact that he was a little person. As I have grown on this journey, I have stuck to one mindset
Treat your kids how you would like to be treated
I imagined a scenario where a friend I trusted would take me somewhere she never told me about and then drop me off with a bunch of strangers. I could only imagine that I would never go out with that friend again. Can you imagine how hard that would be for a little one to process.
Try to start with shorter times: This option might not be possible every time but if we can, we should. If it's the first time, using the same analogy above. If I was dropped off with a bunch of strangers whom I felt I couldn't trust, I will probably send a text an hour later to be picked up. With time when I do feel more comfortable, and I trust these strangers, only then will I be comfortable enough to stay longer.
In the car: Go through the routine for drop off
"When we get to daycare, then we change our shoes, then we wash our hands, then we say Goodbye"
Goodbyes: When leaving your child at daycare, don't run off. say your goodbyes … empathize and talk about how much you can't wait to see them when you get back (keep it short and sweet)
Embrace: Do not underestimate the power of your words. A simple,
"I MISSED YOU, SO MUCH TODAY"
Goes a long way. I previously made the mistake of starting off with "what happened in school today". I would have completely ignored how he felt at that moment - disconnected, anxious, and/or overwhelmed.
Playing a game in the car: This is the best way to RECONNECT. Get them laughing
Laughter has the same effect as crying,
they both release the feel-good hormone
Special time: Special time is recommended for 10 minutes a day twice daily. Once in the morning and once before bed is a wonderful way to stay connected with your child.
Learn the name of classmates as a conversation starter: When I mentioned a classmate's name, my sons' eyes beamed with excitement. From this one action, I learned about the "life" of the class "Nanati".
These little changes made a big difference in our relationship. Recently I have been swamped with schoolwork and I would usually return late. I wondered if this would affect how close we were. However, a few days back I got back from school and my son ran to me with the biggest smile on his face screaming "Suyi time with mummy … Suyi time with mummy" and at that moment I knew my son understood,
"When I feel disconnected from mummy, I can always ask to RECONNECT!"