You are not alone.
We have all experienced the psychological and emotional discomfort of separation anxiety at some point in our parental lives however, the separation between a new mum and her baby can be challenging. In this post, I will try and offer some insights into what causes separation anxiety and what you and your baby can do to ease the step into a day nursery.
Let’s start with the prediction. You may be surprised to learn that prediction is partly linked to attachment. The better we can predict the other person’s behaviour towards us – for example, are they a threat to our survival or not – the closer we’ll feel to them as predictability enhances.
Next, let’s look at the big A, Anxiety. A simple rule we can use is that depression lives in the past and anxiety lives in the future, and the higher the degree of future uncertainty, the higher anxiety levels. You’re probably already seeing the link with anxiety and prediction here rather quickly, and the best remedy for uncertainty is a disciplined routine. We can not over stress the importance of a disciplined routine for your child; in fact, high anxiety levels caused by uncertainty have structural neurological implications with potentially harmful and long-term consequences, but that’s for the next post.
Routine is the bedrock foundation of what we do at bambooh, and we constantly encourage our families to do the same at home. Our children play and learn best when they feel safe and secure in an environment where they know, with a high likelihood, what’s coming next.
Okay, but what does this have to do with the fact that you will soon need to separate from your precious baby, this little miracle that has consumed your every moment for the last couple of years. The unease you are feeling is partly due to the sacrifice of your present predictable normal (which is painful) plus the inability to predict the outcome of your baby’s safety and well-being in the new environment outside the home. Add the perceived loss of control, something our brains despise, and you have a raging thunderstorm of emotions ripping through your insides as you hand your baby over to the teacher.
This neurophysiological pain is real and can not be ignored, but it can be managed, which is part of what makes us such incredible organisms, we have introspection.
A huge barrier to cross is trust, you have to be able to trust that the people you leave your baby with have nothing but her utmost safety at heart. This trust can be complicated to determine in a world where profit is the primary motivator, and promises are just that, promises. As professionals caring for babies and children at bambooh it is our duty to present you, the mother (and father), with as much predictable information, tools and characteristics as possible to help you better anticipate a good outcome.
Here are 5 top tips to help you with the big step into daycare:
- Morning Routine, create a morning ritual building up to day nursery time; make it exciting. Our brain seeks out rhythm and patterns, so try and maintain a consistent rhythm every morning.
- Make your goodbye quick and positive. Use phrases such as “I’ll be back soon. Mummy can’t wait to come back!” and create a special ritual exclusively for dropping off, such as “Bonus cuddles!”, “Tummy Tickles” or “Nose rubs” [verbalise].
- Trinkets can help give your baby or child reassurance in your return, so create something together at home and give it to them at drop-off to return when you return. Trinkets are especially useful in the early stages of separation.
- *Don’t linger – this is super important. It makes it worse for your child. Also, the longer you delay, the more your mind will start finding reasons to grab your baby and run home as the pressure of anxiety builds. A quick note here: anxiety is a chemical response in your brain that wants you to move, to do something (usually irrationally) in response to a perceived threat. The longer you wait, the more pressure you build, the thicker the soup of agitation chemicals builds up in your brain and the harder it will be to leave without your baby.
- Pick up time, make a big deal about it – no, make a HUGE deal about it. Make your child feel like they are the only person in the world, hug them, kiss them and let them know you’re beyond happy to see them again because, let’s face it, you are!
In the next post, I will go a little deeper into the impact of uncertainty and anxiety on the developing brain.
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Thank you for reading and we hope this serves you and your young family well.
About the author, Petré is currently undertaking his Masters in Science in Applied Neuroscience and King’s College London. If you have more questions or just want to share feedback please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org