Remember the early days around 3 or 4 months when family, friends, or babysitters would come over and your baby would just smile at the sight of them? Now I’m sure things have changed and your baby knows who his main caregivers are, who his grandparents are, who aunts and uncles are, and now shows anxiety when friends and babysitters arrive! It of course breaks your heart to leave for work or errands when they are hysterically crying, but mommy and daddy have to bring home the bacon! Here are some tips to help with separation anxiety.
The Future – Even though they may be very young and not fully understand everything you’re saying , talk to your baby about what is about to happen. They take in a lot more than we know! Keep it clear and short. You can say something like – “We’re going for a walk in the park. After the park [babysitter’s name] is going to come over. Then, mommy has to go to work.”
Transition – Especially if the babysitter is new, try to ease into the transition of leaving them with a babysitter. Allot enough time to play with your baby and babysitter at the same time, so they get used to each other and feel safe. You can even set up toys or activities you know your child likes beforehand so that they have a positive experience with the babysitter.
Schedule – Whether you are a flexible or rigid parent, every child has a schedule. Go over it with the babysitter and post it on the fridge. If a baby knows what to expect during the day (e.g. – first bottle, nap, play, lunch, go to the swings, bath, and then mommy comes home!) the more easily he will adjust to the presence of a babysitter – it will also make the babysitter’s life easier!
Finality – When it is time to finally leave you do not have to extend the goodbyes, but keep it short and simple. Give you child a kiss, tell them you are going to work, have the babysitter walk you to the door, and practice waving bye-bye. This way they will associate waving with finality and mommy and daddy will come back at the end of the day! The more consistent you are the more your child knows what to expect.
Book/Pictures of Family Members – This tip is perfect for any age! Create a mini book about family members, so the babysitter can go over the familiar people during the day. This will give your baby a sense of comfort. We personally love putting photos in the “Who Loves Baby?” photo album book by Sassy and read it at least once a day. If you don’t have time to make a book the babysitter can even use framed pictures around the house to talk about how mommy is coming back and blow a kiss to mommy’s picture. This whole process can also encourage labeling familiar people! It is also very helpful when familiar people go on longer business trips, vacations, etc.
Social Story – This is ideal for older children. You can create your own book and take pictures to personalize it. In the book you can talk about the sequence of activities they are to expect during the day (have a picture for each event). Make sure to read it a few times during the day… this ultimately reduces anxiety and also encourages language with frequent repetition! You can even download a free app called Social Stories Creator since I know printing out photos is not easy – you can just take pictures on your device and use them in the app… quick and simple!