Time to leave it to others

Ian Munro
Ian Munro

The secret to leaving your child with other people is to do it with confidence, parenting columnist Ian Munro advises.

The summer social season will soon be with us and it may be that sometime over the next couple of months you will try leaving your child with someone else for the first time.

This can be more traumatic for the parent than the youngster, but it's a step you need to take sooner or later. You can't be the only two people in their life forever.

After that first period of parenthood, you're bound to need a break and the sooner you set up things so that you can do it confidently and without guilt, so much the better.

For the child it's important for other reasons. Children have to learn to interact with others and, most importantly, learn that it's OK for you not to be around and to feel safe with other people.

There will be different stages to this process. For the first few times it will probably be proud grandparents left in charge of a sleeping baby.

The child will come to recognise the familiar smell and voices of its grandparents and feel safe.

Later, as toddlers, there will be new periods of insecurity on their part and anxiety on yours as you wonder whether the babysitter is managing. You may well hear the crying that you walked out on in your head all evening long.

It's important to make your preparations and departure as peaceful as possible. Your stress, especially if you or the babysitter are running late, can carry over to the children and create problems for the babysitter.

Leave confidently, not tentatively. Don't dither about whether you should stay home.

Your manner should also convey your confidence in the babysitter. Children will quickly sense any unease that you have and either pick it up or play on it with a little emotional blackmail.

Never try to slip out unseen. There can be nothing worse for a child to wake and discover that you aren't there. They might come to fear that, if you aren't always in their sight, you could leave them again.

Always say goodbye and explain when you'll be back.

It will probably be hard the first few times and there could be tears, but they'll soon learn that you do return as promised.

In time, you will leave them at other people's homes.

It's a good idea for them to have become familiar with that home before then. More often than not, they will be staying with playmates, which will help.

Next it's daycare. More tears perhaps, but those in charge are used to this and know how to handle an upset child. Tears are soon dried.

Again, you should leave confidently with an assurance that you will be back to take them home.

Ian Munro 

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