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Separation anxiety and child care

Estimate Child Care FeesYou’re looking for a child care centre for your little one.

You’re nervous and don’t really know what you should be looking for. Will your child like it? Will they cry? Will you cry? Will this centre take care of your baby?

You don’t know whether you want to let go of your baby who will always be your baby till they are old.

I had a similar reaction when I sent my last baby (2 years old) to child care last week. I didn’t want to let go. I also wanted her to want me or miss me. Crazy I know. But my daughter was so comfortable in that child care environment that I got none of that. She waved at me, said “bye mum” and ran off to play in the sand pit.

Meanwhile I’m standing there stalking my child. Seeing if she will look back to see if I was still there. Nothing. Sad me walks away.

Come time to pick her up and the stalker mummy in me is at it again. Peering through the window to see what she is doing.

I know as a child care teacher myself what I was doing was annoying for the carers in the centre. I never liked seeing parents at the window peering in. Especially if their child is screaming and wanting them. They can see you.

So here are some tips to overcome separation anxiety your children (or yourself) may get when they start child care or even at big school.

Visit the centre regularly

Once you have chosen a centre you love, tell them you’ll bring your child in to play for an hour. Do this a couple of times a week at different times. Just not at lunch or rest time which is usually between 11am and 2pm – it’s their busiest time of day. Bringing them in the mornings is a great idea – about 9am. Then you can bring them in in the afternoons some days after 2pm. The idea is to make your child familiar with the environment, carers and children. My daughter was so used to seeing the centre because she saw it when we would drop off her sister and pick her up.

Be cool, calm and collected about it

If you are nervous and seem anxious they will be nervous and anxious. Have a fake smile on your face and talk to your carer. Be confident!

Tell your child what’s going on

If your child is of age to understand what you are saying, talk to them. Explain to them what they will be doing during the day. Tell them that they will be having fun and making new friends. Let them help you prepare their school bag with change of clothes and their bed sheets (if your centre requires them).

Let them take a comfort toy with them

Just make sure it’s labelled and you have alerted the carers of the toy.

Keep your goodbyes short and sweet

Take your child to an activity they may like. Sit with them for a minute or so and tell them you are going now. If they start crying just give them a hug and let them know you will be back to get them at whatever time. Look to a carer and they will take over. Tell your child to save you a big hug when you come back to get them.

Always say goodbye

Never sneak out of the centre when you think they are not looking. Often this makes things worse for everyone involved. If you are in a hurry pass them over to a carer and have a quick hug and a goodbye.

Don’t linger

And don’t prolong goodbyes. They can see you.

Have faith in the staff at the centre

They have dealt with this many times and have strategies to calm a child down. Once your child makes an attachment to a carer things will get easier.

Call the centre

Call the centre as much as you like. Call them an hour or two after you have dropped them off and then at lunch time if you like. We had a parent who called four times in a day. It wasn’t a burden on us because it was a quick phone call with “they are fine and have just had lunch” or “they are fine and are playing well outside on the balancing beams”.

Try for consecutive day

Not Mondays and Thursdays. More like Tuesdays and Wednesdays or any other two days right after each other. This will be more consistent and they will start to get used their surroundings.

Remember things will get better

The first day is the worse. You can cry in the car once you have done the drop off. Most children calm down and stop crying once you have gone. Trust me this happens 99.9 per cent of the time.


Separation anxiety happens in most children at some time in their life. Not every child will have it. It depends on their personality and temperament.  It’s usually more once they are 15 months of age and it peaks at the age of 18 months. It’s a normal part of development and it’s a milestone your child has hit.

Your child will soon learn to calm themselves down and two minutes after you have left they are happily playing with the toy kitchen and dress ups.

At the age of 18 months+ your child will start to learn your comings and goings. They will start to predict when you are coming to get them. If after the age of 2 years it continues and they do not start to learn to clam themselves down then there maybe an underlying issue.

I strongly believe children should go to some kind of formal care before big school. Even if it’s just a year before big school. They will learn the skills that they need for big school and all their anxiety separation will hopefully be wiped out.

On a good note your child having separation anxiety means that they know you exist. Kinda counts for something after those long and sleepless nights, nightly feeds and nappy changes. So on this day when your child is having fun it’s time to reward yourself with some quiet relaxation at home, going shopping alone or watching uninterrupted TV.

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