1. Avoidance is not the answer.
I know exactly how tough it is to walk away from your baby, especially if she is reaching out to you with a frantic look, tear stained cheeks, and a quivering lower lip. You just want to sweep your baby into your arms and promise you’ll stay. While that might be a short term solution, in the long term, it actually sends your baby the message that validates her fear and tells her that she won’t be safe with anyone else. That’s not good for either of you.
Even if you don’t think that your baby understands your words, you should let your baby know where you are going, how long you will be gone, who she’ll be staying with and what you’ll do together when you get back. An older baby can be reassured by your words while a younger baby will benefit from seeing that you are calm and happy. Keep your explanation short and simple and don’t offer it until right before you leave.
Many babies will pick toys, blankets, and other soft objects that they like to keep near them when they are tired or stressed. Maybe your baby has a favorite blanket that she sleeps with. Making sure that your baby has her favorite snuggly along can ease the transition away from you.
Make sure that your caregiver understands why your baby may be upset when you leave. Help him or her to see that your baby is likely to need a few minutes of comfort and/or distraction after you leave. With a few soothing repetitive words and actions, your baby will be ready to play in no time!
While many babies will be excited and happy when their parents come back, don’t be surprised if your baby does not seem to be overjoyed right away, particularly if your separation has been a relatively long one (like overnight). By giving you “the silent treatment” or crying for a few moments, your baby is expressing how much she missed you. By reassuring her that you missed her too and telling her about what you’ve been doing, she’ll get the message that you understand her feelings and that you want to share your experiences with her. When she’s old enough to use words, she’ll be happy to do the same.
Next time: “Secrets” Readers Around the Globe!
Nurturing Children and Families: Building on the Legacy of T. Berry Brazelton; Barry Lester and Joshua Sparrow (Eds). Wiley Blackwell, 2010.
Social and Personality Development, David R. Shaffter, Wadsworth, 2005.