Getting an Anxious Child Used to Stress-Free Childcare

It's often said that introducing a toddler to childcare is more traumatic for the parents than it is for the child. And it can certainly be a stressful, anxiety-filled time for parents – especially if it's your first child and you haven't been apart before.

This stress normally passes fairly quickly for both of you and, as an adult, you're able to rationalise and deal with your worries logically. For some children, however, the difficulty sticks around for much longer than you'd expect. If your child experiences strong, ongoing anxiety about childcare, here are some things that might help them start to feel better:

Get someone else to drop them off

In some cases, it's not so much the leaving or spending time without you that upsets a child, but the act of being dropped off by you. This learned behaviour can be altered by asking another family member or a friend – perhaps another parent – to drop the child off for you. This breaks the routine and undoes the anxiety.

Keep things calm at home

While a child is exhibiting particularly high anxiety about being left, it's important to make sure everything else is stable. Just this can be enough to calm everything down. Even small changes like slight shifts in routine or sleeping in a different room can cause significant stress for a sensitive child.

Talk it over

Sometimes, people forget to simply talk to their child about what's wrong, but the power of this act shouldn't be understated. Choosing a good moment to talk about everything gives you the opportunity to ask what their worries are, reassure them that you'll always come back to get them, and find out if there are things you can do to make them feel better about it all.

Think about your own behaviour

Although you might not think you're doing anything that could make the situation worse, even subtle actions and habits can have a powerful effect. When you're leaving, keep goodbyes upbeat and brief, and don't show it if you're feeling stressed yourself. Make sure you have a solid routine, always be on time, and keep things calm during the mornings.

Use distractions

Even for just a short time, adding in a few distractions can encourage a child to learn new habits and ways of coping. These could take the form of promises of treats and rewards or adding some fun activities to your morning routine. Another good distraction is to ensure your child engages in an activity before you leave them, so you can slip away with a simple goodbye in the knowledge they're happy and occupied.