Question: Dear Agnès, my daughter cries every time I leave her with a babysitter. Does this mean I shouldn’t be leaving her? How should I handle this?
Answer: This is quite a frequent issue for most parents and the answer would depend on your child’s age, temperament and needs.
If your daughter is under 24 months, she might not have enough words to tell you how she feels about you leaving. Her concept of time also makes it harder for her to understand that you will be back and when you will come back. Her crying voice might be saying: “I love you, you are my whole world and I am not sure I will see you again.” So, even though you know she will cry, make sure she has seen you leave as it is important that she learns to trust that that you will be back. Sometimes trying to sneak away might feel like it’s easier for everybody but it won’t do any good for the trust relationship you are building for life. Your daughter might be crying for only few seconds or minutes after you have left. Check-in by texting your babysitter or have them text you as soon as your daughter has calmed down. This will help both of you adjust to being away from each other.
Here are my general recommendations for parents to ease the transition with the babysitter:
1. Make sure the child-babysitter connection is a good fit and that you trust this person. Your child will feel your level of comfort. If you feel anxious leaving your child, he/she will also feel it.
2. Make sure that the time of transition is not when your child is over exhausted, hungry or sick.
3. Prepare a fun activity that you know your child would love to do with the babysitter.
4. If your child is a baby, only mention the babysitter an hour or so before as again a baby does not have a concept of time. With an older child, depending on their developmental level, you might went to tell them a day or so before.
5. If you are using a new babysitter, have him/her come a couple of times for two hours to play with your child when you are around. Then, you will all have a chance to adjust and get to know each other which will help everybody’s comfort level.
6. Remember, try to set the appropriate physical and emotional environment for a positive experience for your child, the babysitter and yourself. It is not about perfection it is about connection.
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Our Parenting Column is answered by Agnès Dupin of Family Therapy Toronto. She holds a Specialized B.A. in Psychology (York University) where she focused on developmental psychology, and a Master’s degree in Social Work (University of Toronto) where she focused on family and child therapy and parenting issues.