If your child has required specialized care from the beginning, there are pretty good odds that they'll suffer from some level of separation anxiety upon being left with a child care provider. Below are three ways to help your child—and yourself—prepare for such separation.
It's normal for any child to feel uneasy at the thought of being left with a complete stranger. This is a healthy developmental stage for children.
Before leaving your child with a provider, it's important to start slow. Visits to the care environment should be done a few times to get your child accustomed to the caregivers and other children. These times can be spent meeting the teachers, interacting with the other children, and playing with the toys and activities available for the kids. After a few such sessions, practice leaving your child for short bursts of time. Run errands around town, or head to a nearby coffee shop for an hour or two. This allows your child to see that you'll always return for them.
Children, no matter their special needs, can pick up on the anxiety levels of their caretakers and others around them. While it's normal for you to be just as anxious about this as your child, it's important that you find positive ways to channel this anxiety.
When speaking of the experience with your child, don't emphasize them being "left" and you "leaving." Instead, focus on when you'll be reunited. You can even enlist the help of your child's care provider by asking them to answer such questions as when you'll return with a pick up time or other such marker of your return. Your child's anxiety can be lessened with a simple response, such as, "your mom will be back to pick you up after snack time, but first we're all going to read a book together."
When outside of the child care environment, it can be easy for your child to forget what it was like to be there and how they felt. A great way to be sure your child remembers the fun they have while attending is to use cues while you're home with your child.
Cues, such as reminders and stories, can help your child transition back to care after a long break. These cues can be as simple as, "Remember how great Ms. So&So is at telling stories?" Other cues includes class photos and picture books about daycare or school. This helps to normalize the experience for your child, and helps you to build on their experience.
Separation anxiety is common in children, but children with special needs may have a more difficult time understanding why they're being left behind and whether you'll return. With the three tips listed above, you can help your child to cope with your absence and enjoy their experience at a child care facility. (For more information, you can contact Michelle's Academy)