Dealing with Daycare Separation Anxiety

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This past spring I felt that my home business was growing to the extent that it was taking a lot of time away from my children and my personal time. If I wanted to go even further with the business I would need either a nanny or daycare to free up time for me to grow. Over the summer we started sending our boys to our synagogue’s day care program. My older son, Ben, attends services with my husband every week there. So for Ben it wasn’t a new place or new people. For Adam who stays home with me – this was a totally new experience for him.

While I stayed home last year the boys went a couple hours here and there to the day care center at our gym.  So they have experienced a small amount of separation from me. An hour or two a few days a week was the standard amount time away from each other.  I recommend if you are nervous about starting day care with either a baby or a toddler who has never been before start them slowly.  When I was teaching full-time I would typically drop Ben off at the daycare or nanny for a couple hours 2 weeks before the school year started. This way it was not an unfamiliar place when he started going full-time.  This short amount of time that the child spends at the daycare or nanny can also alleviate any separation anxiety for the parents as they transition back into full-time work.  The parent gets to know the teachers or the nanny better, they get used to saying goodbye, and having time without their child.

As we started daycare the first two weeks this summer Ben was really excited, but then separation anxiety did start setting in.  What helped Ben was having some time with Adam in the morning to play and get settled then. So the teachers at the daycare center coordinated a time first thing for the boys to play outside together. This 20 to 30 minutes helped Ben get over his separation anxiety very quickly. This works well if you have siblings or a friend who’s child your child is already friends with.

For Adam, he has always had separation anxiety.  He doesn’t even want to walk into the door in the morning. I simply pick him up and have a routine with the classroom teacher to get him settled in quickly. I lift him into the classroom, hug and kiss him, give him to the teacher, and she takes him over to his favorite toy to distract him immediately, calming him.

I don’t recommend elongating the goodbye, or feeling guilty. If your child sees you feel badly dropping them off at daycare then they will feel that there’s something bad about dropping them off at daycare. If you just keep it quick, happy, and set up a routine they will transition into their day better.  Stick to this transition routine, and stay positive. For a young child like Adam who is only 18 months old and has been home his entire life up until now, a short daycare day is a huge change in his life.

In the morning after I drop off Adam I go to I drop off Ben. I simply give him a kiss goodbye and he starts  playing with his friends. When I walk back past the baby room I peek into Adams classroom and he’s busy happily playing.  Daycare and preschool give parents a chance to teach their child that school is cool from a young age. If you keep it upbeat and positive, they will come around to it being an upbeat and positive experience.  As a teacher, I will tell you that separation anxiety as at its highest during drop off in the morning. Most kids settle into school and have a great day. The following morning the separation anxiety returns. I know that Adam is having a great time playing with his friends, helping his teachers and his room, and is being taken care of while I’m out with him. I don’t feel guilty dropping him off because he cries in the morning. I know he’s going to be okay.  I have seen kids of ages  five or six have terrible separation anxiety in the morning and later during the school day are happily playing with their friends.  The worst separation anxiety I ever saw was from a six-year-old who when I taught her in the afternoon was a complete joy to have in my classroom.  Try to set up a plan with the classroom teacher every day to get your child settled in and comfortable. Work with your classroom teacher or the school counselor if the separation anxiety is extreme.

Another tip I have for older toddlers joining daycare for the first time is when you are home with your child talk positively about the teacher and their friends are making. Our daycare put out a newsletter with photos of what’s happening in the classroom each week, so I gave the photos to Ben and talked about his friends with him when we got home. We talked about how much fun he has playing with them every day. We talked about the fun things he’s learning in school.  Now he loves going to school! In fact,  yesterday he left the school building crying because he had to leave school!

If you’re returning to work immediately after your maternity leave and leaving your child to day care or with a nanny as I did when I left Ben at 4 1/2 months- there was no separation anxiety. Babies don’t understand that we can actually get up and be somewhere else. He went to school every single day for half a year with not a tear in his eye.  He was too little to understand. The older they get, closer to nine months to a year old they start to understand that mommy goes away. Remind them that mommy always comes back. Start with leaving them with dad while you go for groceries show them mommy goes bye-bye and comes back. Take a date with your husband or start daycare in small increments like I recommend. Small amounts of separation can ease a later larger transition.  I believe that consistently separating this past year from Ben helped him get over his separation anxiety quickly, he knows mommy always comes back. As I said that out loud just now he replied “yes.”

Marking Our Milestone

 

Ok, he’s not a baby anymore, he’s a toddler.  In the Jewish tradition you are not supposed to cut your son’s hair until 3.  At the 3 year old birthday mark on the Hebrew calendar (it’s a lunar and much older calendar than the Christian calendar) the boy has his haircut and there is a party to honor him coming into more spiritual awareness.  Prior to cutting Ben’s hair we met with my dear friend Maritza Nolasco to get photos of him done.  It was extra special having Maritza take these photos as she and I experienced pregnancy for the first time together down to a couple of days difference!  She has been a great supporter on my path to and through motherhood.  We started with some outdoor photos  in her yard and then followed to the pool to get some photos of his gorgeous hair as he swam!  milestoneIMG_0191IMG_0194IMG_0206IMG_0293IMG_0294

Even Adam got in on the photo fun and we have some incredible shots of the boys together.  If you live in Las Vegas and are looking for a professional photographer, who’s great with kids and very patient I suggest looking up Maritza on Instagram or Facebook!

These photos will mean so much to me in years to come.  It will remind me of this special time I am having with m boys, it marks a change in my firstborn from being a baby to a child.  I love his long waves, wheat blond from time spent in the Israeli never-ending summer sun, but I will love his short hair too.  He will look handsome and more grown up.  No more tangles and knots as I comb through it and no more “she’s so pretty” in the grocery store.  He will be a BIG BOY at last!

 

 

I Used to Be an Artist

Some artists create everyday like clockwork.  They take their canvas and easel and go to a mountain top or a cliff and paint for hours on end until they have a masterpiece or hurl their canvas over the cliff like Cezanne in a fit of frustration.  I am not that kind of artist. I have never been that kind of artist and yet my whole life I have been Liza the artist.  I was the girl in high school who spent countless hours in the art room listening to Depeche Mode on her headphones shading and mixing colors. I attended art school, have a B.F.A. in painting, and went onto a successful career as art teacher in the public schools.  I created my own art and displayed it in galleries in my spare time.  Then one day in October of 2013 I got the call that ended my artistic career: I was finally pregnant.  I had tried for several years to create what would become one of my two greatest masterpieces, not knowing that this news would make me completely redefine myself.

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Maybe you’re reading this saying I shouldn’t have to give up my artistic pursuits to be a mom.  You’re right.  There are plenty of people who have babies and manage with a helpful family member, daycare, or sleep schedules to continue their interests.  I have fully committed myself to being a mom and put this part of myself on the back burner.  My practice as an artist has ebbed and flowed throughout my life.  Three summers ago before my pregnancy I was creating art everyday, and now nothing since.  The blog is filling the creative void to express what art left behind.  I do miss it, but not terribly because I know one day it will consume my life again.