Stranger Anxiety with Caregivers
I was pretty lucky. My daycare providers, Maureen and Kristy, were magical. They were in charge of the infant room at the daycare center, and the babies loved them; Norah loved them. I would want to cry when saying goodbye to my little one, but she'd be on her way playing with rattles and books and toys and other babies. She cuddled on Maureen and Kristy's laps, made art projects, sand songs, and blew them kisses on the way out the door. I thought I had somehow avoided the dreaded stranger anxiety. Then Norah turned 16 months old…
Suddenly, I couldn't put her down. She'd cry. She'd clutch her blankie desperately and bury her face in my neck. I was late to work every day for a month. And it wasn't just daycare. Grandma and Grandpa couldn't do their grandparent magic either. Nothing could distract her from Mommy leaving. The worst part? Even leaving her with Daddy left her in tears occasionally.
The good news first: it doesn't last forever. And, it's actually a good sign– that your toddler is attached to you. That is obviously a good thing.
But that doesn't mean it's fun. Walking away from your child when they are screaming for you is heart wrenching. Even if my provider called me ten minutes later to let me know that everything was fine, I still didn't want to leave Norah that way. Not even for ten minutes. To try to minimize this painful event, I took a look at What to Expect, Baby 411, and talked to my care providers as well as other parents at the daycare center. Here are a few tips on what I learned:
- Hang out for a little bit while your child gets acclimated. We came to daycare a little earlier and played. It didn't always work, but sometimes it helped to warm her up a little.
- Don't sneak out. Your child may be having fun and playing, but when they realize Mom or Dad is gone, it might frighten them. Tell them goodbye, you love them, and that you'll be back soon.
- Use a transitional object. A transitional object is a blanket or stuffed toy that your child loves. Sometimes it is comforting and they feel a little more confident with it.
- Try to be positive. Negative energy or stress and worry won't help your child calm down.
- Stick to a schedule. This one was difficult for me. I wanted to take her home immediately if she was having a bad day. And I did. Then, after talking to one of the providers, I learned that I was hampering her; that she'd never get used to daycare if I never let her get used to it! It will be hard at first, but in the long run, it will be much better if you allow your child to get used to the environment.
And, yes, they might be very familiar with the environment, but just recently began showing a problem with it. That's normal. What to Expect reports that stranger anxiety is a mystery– one day your child is excited to see their aunt, and the next day, he or she is terrified and won't let go of Mom. The best advice I found was to just be patient and remember that this too shall pass.