By Alison Cupp-Relyea
Back to school, daycare and work in the fall can mean a busy morning rush getting everyone out the door. In those moments when you most need the transitions to be smooth, separation issues can be particularly debilitating. Your child might have separated easily as a baby, but things change every few months. Toddlers are very good at sensing change and they are much more attached than newborns. While the tears are convincing, tugging at our parental heartstrings like a siren’s call, how we handle separation can resolve the problem quickly or exacerbate it.
Working parents and parents who travel often for work tend to get some of the most drama when it comes to saying goodbye to a toddler. Children like predictability, and inconsistency can make them feel uneasy. Also, they probably have a lot of fun when both parents are around, and they are genuinely sad to see a loved one go, even if only for the day. It is tough to walk away from a screaming child, and it is hard to the be one who is left comforting that child as you walk away.
Some easy do’s and don’ts can make all transitions smoother and will foster a sense of trust and safety in your child.
Do Not Sneak Out
This might work once or twice during a difficult departure, and it is tempting to distract a toddler and run out the door when in a rush. Unfortunately, toddlers are pretty quick to see that they’ve been tricked, and it makes them feel insecure and sad. It may work in the short term, but will help to develop a routine.
Do Set Expectations
Toddlers are just beginning to speak, but they can understand much of what you tell them. When you are getting ready for work, sit down and tell your child when you will be leaving and when you will be back. Children respond very well to clear expectations and this reassurance helps them feel secure.
Do Show Confidence
Do not apologize for leaving, and show confidence, even if you feel torn. Children pick up on your emotions. They will see if they can influence situations where grownups do not seem to be in control. Tell your child you are leaving, walk away, and hold the tears until you turn the corner.
Saying goodbye is hard for you and your child. Some children have a harder time than others, and separation can sometimes feel like two steps forward and one step back. The best thing we can do as parents is to reassure our children that it will, as we know, be okay.