Image Source: Bright Horizons
Perhaps one of the hardest tasks of parenthood for working parents is separating from their child upon arrival at the childcare home or center. This can be a time of heightened anxiety for both parent and child. I remember well when my children were in the infant toddler stages, the sadness I felt as a parent saying good bye at our childcare home. I had formed a strong attachment to my baby and my baby was forming just as strong an attachment to me. It was through the skilled, compassionate, and trusting relationship with my childcare provider that we all adjusted smoothly through this new separation routine.
How childcare providers can ease the separation:
Nancy Balaban offers five tips for creating a curriculum of trust in the NAEYC publication, Spotlight on Infants and Toddlers:
- Use a primary caregiving system by assigning each care giver a small group of three to 4 children in which they would be the consistent person to provide feeding, changing, napping and play time activities and interaction. Of course other caregivers on the team will help if more than one child needs attention at a time. This primary caregiver is also the one to greet the family and child and ease them into the transition by reassuring parent and child.
- Institute a gradual easing into the program for the family and child together. This is done by implementing a slow entry process, where new parents come to the center with their child and stay there together for a short time on the first day, the time is increased each day for 2-3 days, then the adult says good bye. According to Balaban (2011), “An easing –in process isn’t simple when parent must go to work, but trying to facilitate it is worth the effort. The payback is a happy child and trusting parent.”
- Be there to support the everyday goodbyes. Teachers can support the feelings of the child by emphasizing that mom or dad will be back as young children are not always sure this is true.
- Anticipate and be prepared for regressions or shifts in behavior. Beyond the developmental periods where separation anxiety peaks, there are also times when a child’s behavior may regress and they are clingy to the parent again, go back to thumb sucking, or resist going to sleep for example. Teachers can facilitate trust by being accepting and offering help.
- Offer children tangible reminders of their parents. Teachers can read books about hello’s and goodbyes, offer the child’s favorite comfort toy or blanket, and display photos of the child’s family in the center.
Check out the entire article on Everyday Goodbyes for more ideas on easing separation times.
High quality infant and toddler programs serve to foster the development of the whole child including social emotional development. According to the Early Learning Guidelines established by the Nebraska Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services,
“Strong positive, secure relationships are the key to social and emotional development. Infants and toddlers need consistent, nurturing adults who are supportive and responsive. Caring adults provide safe, stable and predictable environments that support young children’s growing independence. Such environments promote a healthy sense of self and connections with others.”
You can access the Early learning guidelines for children Birth to Three and Three to Five year olds for more helpful ways to promote healthy social and emotional growth.
How do you handle separation time at your childcare home or center?
LYNN DEVRIES, EXTENSION EDUCATOR | THE LEARNING CHILD
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