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Hi, 

I'm not completely sure where to place this topic because I am not sure it is a mental disorder or just normal, though it is certainly difficult to cope with for me and my child as well. :(

My son is nearly 18 months old. I am going back to work soon and have signed him up for daycare in preparation. It is a very small and lovely daycare, the group leader is kind and positive, there are many toys to play with and the other kids seem nice as well. My son is not coping well though. This is the third week he is at the daycare and he starts wailing and clinging as soon as he gets up in the morning, progressively getting worse as we get in the car, and I try to drop him off. 

He was fine when I stayed with him the first couple of days. Now though, I'm told that the crying doesn't stop even after I leave and he can cry for up to an hour after drop off. 

This has got to be very damaging! It's stressful as hell for me as well, but I do have to go back to work. 

What can I do to calm this separation anxiety? Do you have some tips on how to calm separation anxiety in children, especially separation anxiety in babies and toddlers in general? 

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478 posts

Hey,

While I cannot comment about your son specifically, I do think that we moms often go around seeing pathology in every struggle, when so often, a paradigm shift could change the situation. In other words, rather than finding ways to change the child, we should change ourselves. This doesn't always work and there can be deeper issues going on, but you could try. This for instance:

  1. Calmly, without anxiety yourself, explain to your boy that he'll be playing at daycare for four hours (or whatever relevant amount of time), while mommy goes to work, after which you will come to pick him up and then you'll go to the park, read a story at home, or whatever it is you will be doing. 
  2. Do not be anxious or dramatic when you drop him off and don't have it drag on for a long time. 
  3. Do acknowledge his feelings by saying, you're still getting used to daycare and are a bit anxious right now. Mommy will be right back. 
  4. Give it time. Do not give in, by thinking of not having him go to daycare any more, but do support him gently as he makes this transition. 

Parents all over the world have gone through the same thing. It will be OK. Really. 

Rosie

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THERE IS SUCH A THING AS SEPARATION ANXIETY DISORDER. THIS IS DIFFERENT FROM DEVELOPMENTALLY NORMAL SEPARATION ANXIETY.

Sorry for the caps, but it needs to be made clear. What you describe, OP, reminds me of the symptoms. They are absolutely hysterical at the thought of separation from a parent and even develop physical symptoms like tummy ache, which your child would be too young to let you know about.

Please Google this to find out more and take your son's struggle seriously. This is very difficult for him.

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God, I'm not sure. Maybe bringing some familiar items from home would comfort him? A favorite teddy bear, or a blankie, and maybe even a picture of you. And you can tell your kid that you will definitely be back, but while you are making money for the family you will be thinking of him, and he will be able to see your picture. You can say you have his picture as well and that is a good way of thinking of each other while you are apart. You could try to explain that making money means you can then do fun things together that you would not otherwise be able to do.
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Hi,

The replies I have received from you reflect my own feelings about this quite closely. I go back and forth between "this is normal, I just need to stay consistent and it will pass", and "this is completely abnormal, he just can't take it and I should stay home with him".

He is so small, such a tiny boy. It's too early to do evals for anxiety, isn't it? Ideally, I'd like any kid of mine to start daycare/preschool at age three or so, and this is really necessity. My son's behavior is adding to feelings of guilt I already had anyway. I feel so bad. :(
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Ah yes, that is what I meant, to a T! You know that saying "ain't nobody happy if momma ain't happy"? Well, it's true. If you calm down about the whole daycare experience and accept that it is perfectly acceptable to leave your son in daycare with peers, a nice environment, and hopefully stimulating, developmentally appropriate activities, then he is likely to follow your lead.

An evaluation for him? Maybe you should talk your feelings over with a therapist and see if that changes your boy's attitude? I hope I am not sounding harsh. I am talking from experience.

Rosie
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Hello mom,

I guess that if you feel bad, you feel bad for a very good reason. I think if your kid needs you, then you should definitely answer that call of nature because your kid is nature too and it calls you. Your child obviously needs you to be there for him. And don't you think that it is irresponsible to leave it with someone it hardly knows and leave it really unsettled? My advice to you is to quit your job and stay at home and look after your son.

Gertrude
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Hey,

Way to give someone more stress than they already have. Didn't Worried Mom say that she has to go back to work? Staying at home to look after your children is a beautiful choice when you have it and make it freely, but those of us who have done exactly that also know that it is a sacrifice. Not in terms of the time we spent with our kids when they needed it, and let's face it we needed it, but in terms of what happens later. Being a SAHM is a huge financial sacrifice, not just during the years we do it but forever.

We all do the best we can!!! Please, Worried Mom, don't feel afraid to come back here because of that negative comment. Those happen everywhere. We are here to support you.

Rosie
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Thank you for the kind words, Rosie.

You are both right in a way, mind you. Yes, I do believe that my son's separation anxiety is at least partly due to me being anxious about it as well. Yes, I do ideally think I should be home with him at this age. His separation anxiety makes me more stressed and sad, which I am sure he can feel, and then so it goes on... he gets more anxious as well.

I will try a special stuffed toy that he can hold on to. I like that. I think he is too young to really understand what it means when I say I will be back after lunch though.
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Oh, I do feel for you! This is a tough problem all around!

If I were you, I'd read some parenting books or in the worst case scenario get therapy/counseling for yourself to talk your own reactions and strategies through with someone who knows what they are doing. I do agree that there's no need to see things that aren't there in this. It's not true that just because your child feels anxious now, he will have a mental health problem later on. What is true is that you're both hurting and you need to get through that right now.

This requires a combination of patience and gentle support that will help both of you feel more comfortable with spending time apart from each other. Don't lose hope. It will happen. The separation anxiety will subside. I promise. He won't be like this when he is in college.
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