Connections for Separation Anxiety

It’s very hard to handle separation anxiety as a parent. We just want to hug our children and stay close to them. But the separation is necessary, because we must go to work, or our house just needs to be cleaned or our children need to experience new things, or we just need some R & R.

So how can we help our children with separation anxiety when the whole point is that we are not there…? I have three simple ideas that you can do while you are with your child, to help them build strong connections with their educators and peers at daycare while you are away doing what you need to do.

I have a very vivid memory of being six or seven years old at a church kids camp with about 100 other children, in regional NSW. Over the 2 days, I had made a connection with another child who had come from the Salvation Army Church. My Mum was the camp coordinator and had packed our van to the hilt with equipment. After much begging and pleading I convinced her to let me go on the Salvo Bus with my new friend, for the 1 hour trip home. She eventually agreed, after she realised she needed my seat to fit everything in. Once Mum had packed up, she left about 15 minutes before the Salvo bus. I was ecstatic, until the moment that I walked onto the bus. As I stepped onto the bus, walked towards the back, and glanced at all the faces that I didn’t really know, an overwhelming sense of fear washed over me, and I panicked. I just wanted to get off the bus! As I pushed my way off the bus, I noticed that the only other people left at the camp was the Salvation Army Sergeant and her family in their Tarago. We had recently had dinner at their house, probably a planning meeting for the camp, and I felt much more connected with them than anyone on the bus. They didn’t have any seats left in their car, but their eldest daughter offered to ride on the bus and gave me her seat. 

The moral of the story is:

The relationships and connections that we build are so vital.

We have all heard the tragic stories on Facebook about orphanages where children were deprived of love and died (most of these stories are likely not true, good old Facebook…). But this kind of story can be found in ‘The Twelve Calamities of Emperor Frederick II*’ written by 13th Century Monk, Salimbene di Adam. Apparently, Frederick II was so eager to learn the language that was spoken in the Garden of Eden that he put babies into the care of nurses and had them care for them without speaking to them or reacting to their coos or cries. His hope was that they would learn to speak as Adam and Eve did. Instead, the babies died. 

The relationships and connections that we build are so vital to our very existence!! Did I say that already?

If you are a parent with a child in care, then you’ve probably felt the gravity of this when you took the big step and decided to enrol your first child into daycare. After the excitement of a new lunch box dies down, comes the moment when you leave your child in the care of all but strangers on your child’s first day. All too often this is a very emotional moment for the child and often, more emotional for the parent. Often, it’s the parents that feel the separation and for some, the loss of connection to their child can be too much. But as the connection between parents and educators, educators and child, child and other children grow, everybody’s confidence grows.

During my experience with the Salvation Army bus, I thought I had a great connection with my new friend, but I had trouble connecting it with my ‘real life’. I had trouble connecting that moment with the people I felt safest with, my family. And, although I wasn’t friends with anyone in the Tarago, I was able to connect that family with my family, because my family had been to their house. Which made me feel safer, more confident, and more connected.

When children feel connected to the people around them then they are willing to try new things, explore new places and cooperate with new people. The children that successfully make connections between home and daycare are the children that create the strongest connections with educators and their peers.

So, how can we build these kinds of connections for our children? I have 3 simple ideas that you can do to help your child build strong connections with their educators and peers at daycare while you are not there.

1) Set aside time to have a conversation with your child’s educators.

Ensure that you spend time making your own connection with your child’s educators. Your child is looking to you to model how they can connect with their educators. If your child sees you spending time in conversation with their educators, they will begin to see a connection between daycare and home. If your child see’s you are smiling, laughing, and interacting positively with educators, they will believe that they too can interact positively with their educators.

2) Talk about daycare at home.

Spend time at home talking about things that happen at daycare. At First Steps we post photos on Facebook and on EDUCA that you can use to have conversations with your children. These conversations at home will help your child connect home with daycare. As you respond positively to the things your child is experiencing at daycare your child will connect their experiences at daycare with your positive response and help them to enjoy their time in care.

3) Get involved with your child’s class.

Daycare centres love having parents come in and share their experience and hobbies with the children. Sometimes as parents, we can avoid this because we know our child will just hang off us and make it difficult and they will probably play up and get all silly. But when you get involved, you are bringing home closer to daycare for your child. Then, when their educators and peers respond positively, they start to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance amongst the daycare community.

Parent involvement at Daycare

These three simple things have a profound impact on your child’s ability to connect with others and embrace their time in care. My mum would not know how important that dinner was to me when I needed to make a connection with the family from the Salvation Army.

Similarly, we can easily disregard the importance of demonstrating how to connect with educators and the conversations that we have with our children about daycare.


*Reference – Emperor Frankenstein: The Truth Behind Frederick II of Sicily’s Sadistic Science Experiments | All About History (

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