This article was originally published on urbansitter’s blog.
If your life with young children is anything like mine, it’s rare that you’re able to walk to the bathroom without a child attached to your legs or shower without a child or two peering through the glass. Needless to say, you need a break, but how do you get help from a babysitter when your child won’t leave your side?
According to childcare experts, children have an innate need to bond with their caregiver before they can trust them. Separation anxiety is common, but even young children can overcome their anxiety and bond with their sitter, giving you some much needed time to yourself. These useful tips will help you to understand the anxiety your child is feeling and take the necessary steps to make time away from you enjoyable and stress-free.
Tips to Ease Separation Anxiety
Find the right sitter for your child.
Interview potential sitters carefully to find one that both you and your child like and trust. Children can detect our nervousness, so your confidence in a childcare provider is important. Make the right choice by reviewing sitter background checks or paying to run one if it isn’t provided. Also check references from other parents and employers. When interviewing the caregiver, ask how she would handle your child’s separation anxiety and discuss strategies that might work best for your child. For additional questions to ask a sitter in an interview, check out this helpful article on interviewing potential childcare providers.
Do a trial run.
For the first time or two, ask the babysitter to watch your child while you’re in the home. Give them time to get comfortable together, then slowly ease your way out. Think of the preschool analogy in which teachers often tell parents to sit along the edge of the room while their child interacts with the teacher, feeling safe that their parent is in the room.
Read a book about Mommy always returning.
You can show your child that you understand her worries and assure her that your time apart is temporary by sharing books with characters they can relate to, such as “The Kissing Hand,” by Audrey Penn or “Owl Babies” by Martin Waddell. For children who are anxious about the transition to daycare or preschool, “My First at Nursery School,” by Becky Edwards is a comforting read.
Call it a playdate.
Tell your child that a new sitter is coming for a special playdate. Talk about how much fun they will have together, and discuss what types of things they can do together. Be enthusiastic. If you are nervous, your child will be, too.
Make it a quick goodbye.
When the caregiver arrives, say goodbye and remind your child that Mommy always comes back.
Create a family book.
Include photos of you, your child and the other important people in their life. It can be as simple as photos taped onto paper that you staple together, or as fancy as a photo book. Leave this with the caregiver, so that your child can look at the photos when feeling lonely. If your child begins to miss you, ask the caregiver to help her write a letter or make a card for you.
Following these tips will help your child to build a bond and ultimately trust in a sitter, making it easier for her to be away from you. Remember that it’s healthy for your child to develop these bonds with others and just as important for you get a break.
For additional recommendations on leaving your child with a caregiver, see advice from Dr. Sears. For children starting preschool, see additional ideas at http://gooseling.com/2013/09/04/transitioning-to-preschool.