Saying Goodbye to Your Toddler

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Just about every mother has been through that difficult task of leaving your toddler somewhere, either at home or childcare. Some situations are really tough and I still cringe when I think back on the moments when I would try to leave for work. My toddler would form herself into a cross barring all passage through the front door, and when I finally did get past her, she would cling to my skirt or blouse all the way to the elevator.

Only a mother knows the kind of guilt that follows on from an ordeal like that.

It was my husband’s turn when she started attending play school. He used to drop her off and try to leave without being pulled back by the crying. We also enlisted uncles and aunties and grandmothers to take turns in dropping her off and picking her up. I think one of her uncles spent quite a few full-length lessons in her play school.

If you are not able to use a grandparent or other relative, then the next best thing is her familiar maid, nanny or babysitter who often can help making saying goodbye almost painless.

Here are some tips which should help:

  • Having a household routine helps to give a sense of order and allows your child to feel safe and confident that her parents will return and that the world is a predictable place.
  • Follow the same pattern each time you leave. Again, a routine suggests predictability which assures your child you will return.
  • Usually, it is best not to sneak out unnoticed, unless your child has a very strong bond with the relative, nanny, babysitter or maid looking after her. It could easily lead to mistrust every time you go into another room and are out of sight for a while.
  • Say “goodbye” confidently, cheerfully and quickly. Drawing out the process could lead to an escalation which might have otherwise been avoided.
  • Set-up a pleasant situation for your child to be immersed in after you leave. A good babysitter can make the world of difference here, but just starting a favourite DVD movies, or playing one in the Resource section on this website, may be enough to prevent a melt-down.
  • Get the babysitter to come half an hour before you need to leave. A new person coming and the parents leaving all at once is too much, too quick. Let the changes happen gradually.
  • Do your best to convince yourself that your child will be OK while you are away. There is not much point in going out for a nice evening if you don’t enjoy yourself. After all, it is easy for the nanny to call you if something is not right.
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