Many young children experience separation anxiety when their parent leaves for any amount of time, whether it’s short or long. At around 8 to 9 months of age, children begin to learn and understand that mom and dad are permanent figures in their lives, and may become upset when they can no longer see them. Nannies can ease the anxiety children feel when their parents leave by understanding why the anxiety happens and how best to make the child feel secure that their parent will, in fact, return.
What is separation anxiety?
Infants start off life not realizing that the world is full of objects and people that are constants in their world. Around 8 to 9 months of age they begin to understand that their parents, toys, and other items may not be in sight, but they still exist somewhere. That knowledge and understanding is also the beginning of separation anxiety, as they now want the person or item to return when it is gone.
As infants get older, their anxiety can become more exaggerated. They may begin to cry or cling to the parents when they fear they are leaving. All children are different and some may never experience much anxiety at all, while others may continue this behavior for years. The problem can worsen when parents allow the behavior and feed into it by changing plans or admitting guilt and remorse to the child when leaving.
Ways Nannies Help to Ease Anxiety
Nannies can help children overcome the anxiety they feel when their parents leave in a variety of ways. Each child is unique and will respond to different tactics but there are several general techniques that can be applied. Learning what can trigger the anxiety and different ways to cope are the first steps in decreasing, and hopefully eliminating, separation anxiety.
- Nannies can become familiar with the child before the first separation. Once hired, the nanny most likely will want to talk about setting up some time to play with and get to know the child before their first day of caring for them alone. This will go a long way in making the child more comfortable with the nanny. If the nanny is hired when the child is only an infant, there may be very little, if any, separation anxiety when a parent leaves for the day, since they will have always been with the nanny and feel safe with them.
- Nannies can learn the child’s routine. Nannies will want to know what the child is used to and adhere as close as possible to their normal routine. Consistency will make the child feel more secure, even when the parents are away. Going about the day as they always have will let them know that everything is the same as usual, just minus mom and dad.
- They are respectful of the child’s feelings. Nannies should be there to listen and soothe the child. When the child is upset they need to know that someone they trust is there for them. Nannies should listen and be patient with a child who is experiencing anxiety. They should also answer any questions about when their parents will return directly and honestly, but should not bring up the subject themselves.
- Display calmness and confidence. Children need to know someone is in charge who is able to protect and care for them. Their anxiety is partly due to fear of losing the people that usually make their world safe. Having a nanny that is calm and confident sends the message to the child that he is safe and will be well cared for.
- Distract them but don’t trick them. Seasoned nannies know that having a fun activity to do right after the parent leaves can help distract them, but they know better than to try and deceive a child. Using distraction while a parent is leaving is generally not a good idea. First off, it generally just delays the inevitable once they realize the parent is gone. Secondly, they now may feel like the parent and the nanny tried to trick them and this could lead to trust issues. Experienced nannies know better than to use such techniques and will find ways to positively engage the child.
For most children, separation anxiety is a passing phase that generally goes away as they get older. Usually by pre-school children quickly adjust to being with new people and in new environments.
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