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Separation anxiety … how best to cope?

There are several things you can do to ease the transition for your child from home to crèche.
  • Before your child starts class take them to visit the crèche to see the classroom and to meet the teacher
  • If possible have a play day with one or more of the children that will attend their class because they will be happy to see their friend again
  • Give your child a lot of reassurance that Mummy or Daddy is coming back
  • Keep your goodbyes short and you might use a special little wave or quick kiss to develop a positive routine of dropping them off. If you are anxious and hover around your child will sense the anxiety and react.
  • Don’t sneak out as you want your child to know they can trust you.
  • It is also important to not let children watch scary shows on TV as they have vivid imaginations and these can trigger anxiety or nightmares.
  • Never bribe or bargain your child to behave. Children have to be allowed to have their own feelings to become a little more independent.

It is natural for a child to feel anxious when they are left in a new environment without mummy or daddy. After all, starting crèche is a big step for a child particularly if the child has not been out of the home very often or spent time with a relative. They often don’t want to say goodbye and they will cry. Clinginess, crying or tantrums are considered healthy reactions to separation in the early years. They may stop and then start again up until the child is 5 years old.

This is not abnormal, but just a stage in a child’s development which can indicate a healthy attachment with their parents. It means that a strong, loving bond exists between you and your child. Most children stop crying 3-4 minutes after the parent leaves. As a parent it can be a little heart wrenching, but fortunately most children outgrow this reaction quickly once they adapt to the crèche.

The separation anxiety can vary greatly from one child to another. Some children are more clingy and irritable than others, and they may have a more difficult time adapting to a change in their daily routine. This doesn't mean the child will have problems later in life. It just requires a little more effort on the part of the parent. Staying patient and being consistent by gently setting firm limits is important.