Saying Goodbye: Daily Separating from a Child
Yesterday was a relaxed morning with everyone waking easily. You
felt the family harmony as you playfully dressed your young child,
chatting about the fun he would have at day care. You sang silly
songs in the car on the way and hugged and kissed at day care as
you said goodbye. Your child sighed as you left and then rejoined
Today however, the whole family is tired and tempers are short.
Your child fussed about her clothes, spilled breakfast and a yelling
match began. In the car you drive fast, change lanes frequently,
and are focused on running late. The good-bye is rushed and mechanical
and your child starts crying, kicking, and whining. You feel guilty
and embarrassed. What can you do?
Separation begins long before the actual event and its effects
linger throughout the day. Young children fear being separated from
their parents, especially when things have not gone smoothly beforehand.
This fear and stormy behavior is normal. Saying goodbye becomes
easier as your child learns to feel more secure, trusts you will
always come back, and understands he has not done something to cause
Making Goodbyes Easier
Make up after a morning conflict. It can reassure your child
that daily conflicts will not affect the enduring love between
Calmly acknowledge your feelings about separation. It can help
your child learn to cope with his, "I will miss you all day
and think about you," or "I can't wait to see you after work."
These messages tell him how important he is to you even when
you are not together.
Let your child know what to expect. Explain what will happen
while you are gone: "You're going to day care to play and have
Let your child know when you are coming back. Use a time frame
she will understand, such as after a routine activity: "I'll
be back when your nap is over."
Let your child take a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. Something
familiar can help ease unsure feelings.
Tell your child you are leaving-don't just disappear. This
will help your child feel more secure and make goodbyes easier
Keep your goodbyes short. Give your child a quick hug and kiss,
then leave. Long goodbyes can make things more difficult.
Follow a routine. Say goodbye in the same way each time. This
will help him know what to expect and feel more secure.
Call if your plans change to keep your child from worrying
or being afraid you won't return.
When A Separation Is Most Difficult for Your Child
- It is prolonged (overnight or longer).
- It occurs abruptly, so that the child is not prepared for it.
- He is left in unfamiliar surroundings, with unfamiliar caretakers.
Check your local library or bookstore for these books to read together:
- Anna Marie's Blanket by Joanne Barkan
- Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
- First Day at Day Care by Ellen Weiss
- Will You Come Back for Me? by Ann Thompert
As you stay calm and confident, you are a role model and support
for your child, while she learns to say goodbye. Remember to return
with a big smile.