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Separation Anxiety

Dear Debi,
My 18-month niece yells and screams when her mother leaves her with me. There is nothing I can do to appease her!! How can I ease her anxiety?
Rhea, Los Angeles, CA
Debbi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Talk to the child before drop-off
  • Visit child care provider before starting program
  • Create a goodbye ritual
  • Comfort the child and validate his emotions
  • Allow personal items from home and contact with parents
Expert Advice
Susan Baxter
Susan Baxter
Early Childhood Education Instructor, El Camino Community College
Separation anxiety can be hard to handle, but there are some steps you can take to ease the situation. Spend a day at the child care with the child care provider and your child to get them acquainted with the new situation. Talk to your children about it and let them know whatís going to happen.

Remember to be positive about the change; it will be a new and important stage in their life. Also, create goodbye rituals and never slip out. If you stick to it, the child will begin to recognize the ritual and enjoy it. If you wish, you could also bring photos from home or any other personal item that will comfort them.
Child Care provider Comments
Mother of a child in child care
When I took my son to child care he was a little too young to understand what was going on. He knew that I was leaving him in the care of others, but when I brought him to child care the first day and put him down, he began screaming bloody murder! I tried to be patient and figure out why he was freaking out and assured him that it was going to be ok.
Alma Martinez
Alma Martinez
Child care provider for 10 years
I try to bond with the child that is having difficulty with the separation, and make him feel as safe as when they are with their own parents. Both parents and providers need to allow some time for the child to adjust to the new setting, but you need to put a time limit on it. If you see that the child is not adjusting, find someone who heís comfortable with, like a relative, to provide child care.

I had a 2-year old baby who was so attached to his mother that he didnít want to leave her arms. When she left him, he would cry and cry. After a while he stopped crying and became as attached to me as he was to his mother. He wouldnít participate or get involved because he didnít want to leave my side. It became a problem because I wasnít able to get anything done and he wasnít able to interact with the other children. We gave it about 2 weeks and then I told the mother that her son was having a very hard time adjusting, so she decided to quit her job and stay home with him during the day.
Family child care provider for 5 years
I always try to comfort the child as much as I can. I keep reminding them that their parents will come and pick them up at the end of each day. They stop crying when they realize that, day after day, their parents come back for them sooner or later.

Welcoming Children Featured Activity:
Welcoming Children
Separation Anxiety Featured Video:
Separation Anxiety
Topic: Child Care Management
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