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Saying goodbyes to little ones

Today I want to talk about how mom can say goodbye to her very young children when she needs to leave them for a short time. Maybe mom is going back to work, going to the gym or simply taking a long shower while someone takes her little one to the playground for a couple of hours

Once I witnessed a scene at the playground. A boy, about two years old, came to play with his mom. He was very pleased with life and himself, climbed the steps and rolled down the slide. At first he was pulling his mom everywhere but with time he relaxed and began to run around independently. He did not notice his nanny or babysitter who had come to the playground. She chatted briefly to the mom and then mom abruptly got up and left. At first the boy continued playing unaware that anything had changed. But then he looked up to show his mother something and she had gone. Instead he saw a familiar, but not at all the same face.

What a range of emotions was reflected on his little face: a mixture of anger, despair, disappointment and some kind of universal sadness ... A second later, a loud cry was heard across the playground and the nanny ran to him to try and calm the boy down.

I watched and remembered how many times I did the same when my eldest son was little. When he was one and a half, two, three years old. Distract him, make sure he was playing and sneak away. And then it was no longer my concern. I was sure his grandmother or nanny would calm him down. Then, having learned a lot of new and interesting things about children and their psychology, I started to act differently with the younger ones and we were able to go through a few difficult minutes of parting. We worked out a healthy emotionally stable routine and then my sons did not have many issues (still some but not major) about staying without me in the kindergarden or nursery. As it turned out and as cliched as it sounds: trust is the basis of everything. I managed to convey to my children that they could trust me and that I would always come back.

By the time they are eighteen months or so, children already understand that when their mom is leaving the room she is not going to disappear forever but the goodbye ritual is still important to them.

Imagine you went to a party with your partner/boyfriend/girlfriend. You are excited, happy and looking forward to a wonderful evening. You are enjoying time together and then, at some point, (s)he apologises, mumbles something about being back in a minute and walks out of the building. You calmly wait for her/his return looking at the world around you, but suddenly, instead of a that partner you see a friend standing next to you. She/he is a good person to be with, and sometimes you meet and have a chat over a cup of coffee but today you had no intention of spending the evening with her/him. What would you feel at that moment? What emotions would have been stirred regarding your partner and also your friend? Resentment, anger, sadness, irritation ... And most importantly, should there be another party are you likely to calmly let your loved one go to the bar for a cocktail? Will you suspect that he or she may not return? It is very similar with children. They trust us and through our disappearances we undermine this trust.

So what to do then???

1. First of all, it is important to let go of the feeling of guilt for leaving the child. And stop being scared of seeing the tears. Crying and even a separation tantrum once in while is a norm, which once again shows how much your child loves you. If you act calmly and consistently, then over time these tears will go away as the little person will associate goodbyes not only with parting, but also with the subsequent return.

2. Talk to the child and explain what is about to happen: "Now Mom will go to work. You will stay with your grandmother. You will play, and then you will go to the park to feed the ducks."

3. Explain to him when you are coming back. Children are not good with time, so it is better to explain when exactly you are going to pick them up in terms of a sequence of events: "I will pick you up right after the afternoon snack. I know you really love the snack that you have after your daily nap. And right after that I will come and pick you up ".

4. Don’t make goodbyes longer than they should be. As long as your child knows that you are nearby, he will be desperate to get back to you. This is another mistake I made with my eldest son, sitting and waiting outside the door of his kindergarten. He knew that Mom was nearby, and instead of making new friends and settling in he endlessly tried to escape and reunite with me.

It is much better to talk through the good-bye routine and then stick to it. Some kind words and “iloveyous’, quick hug and kiss and then out. And you certainly don't have to come back later to check how he is. By the way, I know perfectly well how difficult it is. And you can always ask the teacher or nanny to send a photo of the baby in five minutes. Usually on the photo you can see a cheerful child playing.

5. Try to stick to your schedule and routine. Children love rules and readily accept them. Establish your goodbye routine and follow it through. For example agree that in the morning we get up, get washed, have breakfast, welcome the childminder, Mommy quickly reads a book, we share a kiss and a hug and then Mommy goes. And this happens every work day.

6 . Warn if something is going to change. Even if the child is only 18 months. Just start developing this habit: "Mommy will come home very late today, so you will go to bed with your grandma in the evening. And tomorrow morning I will be very, very glad to see you." And if plans change during the day, ask the adult who is in charge of the child (teacher, nanny, grandmother) to warn him on your behalf.

7. And If the child is staying in what for him is a new place, you can give him a physical reminder of you. It can be a photograph, a blanket, a soft toy, or something else personal and special that smells of Mommy and home.

If that mom on the playground had calmly approached the young boy and told him: "Darling, I will go home now, and you will stay with the nanny. You will play and ride on the swing, and I will be waiting for you at lunchtime," he could have been upset and he could have even cried but he would not have felt deceived and disappointed. Gradually he could have learnt to connect his mother's words to not only goodbyes but to the hellos that would follow afterwards.

This could have been a solid brick in the foundation of a trusting relationship between child and parent. So let's learn to say goodbye to children when we need to leave and not succumb to the temptation to sneakily escape.

(Therussianversion of the text was published on the site


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