Even so, eight hours a day five times a week is a lot of time spent away from your children. Some parents are probably troubled not knowing exactly what goes on all day. This creates feelings of longing, guilt, anxiety and fear.
The first time a parent takes their little one to child care is usually distressing. The reaction of parent and child often has to do with their relationship before the first day. Their response also depends on the child’s temperament. It is not uncommon for young children to become emotional, cling to their parent and plead for them to stay.
Regardless of temperament, children will display similar behavioral patterns during the first period away from a parent. A study done by Tiffany M. Field observed the reactions of 80 infants, toddlers and preschoolers when separated from their mothers. Some behaviors included high activity, wandering around the room, observing classmates and talking with the teacher.
As early childhood professionals, teachers may be familiar with these behaviors and give special attention to the newcomers until they feel more at ease. The good news is children are equipped with natural abilities to cope with stressful situations. They inadvertently act out their feelings through dramatic play, providing an emotional outlet.
Specifically for this reason, Tiffany M. Field concludes there are no negative cumulative effects of repeated separations on infants, toddlers or preschoolers. The guilt may cease! Children are truly amazing; they use their own genius to overcome many complex emotions.
Another crucial part in this analysis is the consistency of the caregiver. Keeping his or her environment stable helps ease tension. Friends in the classroom “have been noted to buffer stresses of this kind” as well (Field, Vega-Lahr, & Jagadish, 1984).
If your child enters a new child care center, keep this study in mind. It is quite normal for children to have anxiety in a new environment, and their comfort level will increase each time they attend. If your child has a hard time with change, it is important to bring him or her on a consistent basis. Also, you may wish to compile a small photo album for your child to view while you are separated. This can be helpful at any age. Don’t forget a special blanket or stuffed animal from home. Those cherished items help them feel safe and comfortable.
Even after separation improves, there may be another struggle at pick-up time. Children may want to stay when you need to leave. Don’t fret; this is also quite normal behavior. What he or she is displaying here is insecurity and anger about your absence. These emotions are not for you to take personally; just be aware of their origin.
Again, the improvement of this situation comes with your relationship outside of the childcare environment. If you spend adequate time with your child each day, these types of behaviors will minimize. With time and consistency, your child will be thrilled to see you and ready to go home!