The first few times you drop your child off at daycare or leave them with another caregiver, be prepared for crying, clinginess, and even tantrums. Seeing your little one so upset and having to leave anyway can be heartbreaking, and if you’re not careful you’ll give yourself a guilt trip that can ruin your whole morning or cast a shadow over what should have been a fun night on the town.
As with everything else where your child is concerned, your first step should be to calm yourself down and realize this is no reason to panic. Worry over being separated from you is an entirely normal, healthy response from your child. The degree to which this happens has an enormous variation between different children, and even the same child at different times, and will generally last from before the first birthday until about four years of age.
You’ll be glad to know that there are a few things you can do to make it easier on both of you when you have to leave your child with someone else. When possible, let your child adjust to being apart from you gradually—start with leaving them for a short period of time, when you’ll be nearby.
When it’s time to hand your child to his teacher or caregiver; do it gently and decisively, with as little telegraphing of your own anxiety as possible. Your kids are smart! They look to you for clues on how they’re supposed to be feeling!
Routine is also very helpful; your child will be more upset when they are tired or hungry, so schedule your drop-off time for immediately after a nap or a meal. Also think about developing a ritual of some sort—no need to be elaborate; even just a wave or a blown kiss will do—to help it feel more ‘normal.’
Routine is so important because children thrive on familiar surroundings. You can boost their comfort level by leaving them in your own home whenever possible (get the babysitter to come to you), or let him bring along a toy, blanket, or other personal object.