Does Day Care Cause Separation Anxiety? Those Drop Offs Can Be Difficult

Separation anxiety is hard, not only for babies, but for their moms, too. When I enrolled my toddler daughter at a new day care center a couple years ago, our first drop-off was excruciating. She cried, I cried. But thankfully within a couple of days, my daughter was already hugging her caregiver and chatting about her new friends. Still, the struggle is real when you're researching child care providers for your little one, so much so that you might be asking yourself, "Does day care cause separation anxiety?" While separation anxiety can be rough, there are numerous ways to help your child — and your sanity — get through this difficult phase.

First off, don't feel guilty if your child has separation anxiety. This is a completely normal stage of child development, Baby Center noted, and most babies will experience some form of anxiety when separated from their parents. Generally speaking, separation anxiety peaks between 10 to 18 months, although some babies develop it as early as 6 months. Yet here's the good news — this type of anxiety usually clears up by your kid's second birthday, if not earlier.

Second, don't feel bad if you need to send your child to day care. You might dread drop-off every morning because your toddler starts clinging to your legs like a chimpanzee, but keep in mind that day care itself doesn't cause separation anxiety — it's a normal part of human growth, after all — yet it might trigger your child's uneasiness. Fortunately, there are various methods to ease the transition from home to daycare.

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To combat separation anxiety, consider creating a goodbye routine to do at day care every morning, suggested pediatric psychologist Kasey Davis in an article for Childrens MD. A predictable routine will not only comfort your child, it will build their self-confidence so that they can get through the separation. Just keep the routine simple: hanging up a coat, followed by a high-five or a hug, and then a wave goodbye before you head out the door. But try to keep things quick — the longer you prolong the goodbye, the more upset your kid can get. And if for whatever reason your child's anxiety isn't improving, be sure to work with your day care center or speak to your pediatrician to brainstorm ideas to help your kid make the transition, according to What To Expect.

Even though most kids go through separation anxiety, it still hurts like crazy to hear them cry after you've dropped them off at the sitter's or at day care. The guilt can eat away at you, but try to remember that this is a totally normal phase and that you're still a loving mom. With time and practice, both you and your child will get through this.