Returning To The Office? How To Prepare Your Clingy Toddler
WFH and HBL were great (for many of us) when it came to family bonding and spending quality time together. But now that real life is starting again and most of us are going back to work in person, it means getting back to the ‘old’ regular routine of leaving home. But what if your little toddler isn’t ready to let go of you again?
Try these tips to help smoothen the transition and ease the separation anxiety:
1. Don’t brush off his anxiety
Your toddler is used to having you at home all day now, so when you suddenly start going back to work, he might be worried that you aren’t coming back. Start talking to your child about when you will have to go back to work and how things will change a little bit at home. Acknowledge your child’s fears and separation anxiety. Reassure him that this is normal and that his job is to go to school and your job is to go to work, and that you’ll both be together for dinner at home later that evening. Be enthusiastic about the adventures you both will have at work and school, and your positive energy will certainly rub off on his apprehension.
2. Make it visual
Make it easier for your child to know what to expect through a play and practice activity, such as demonstrating the process of leaving home and going to work using dolls for instance. You can also emphasise that there will always be someone they know and trust (helper or grandparent) looking after them at home (or school) until you return.
3. Develop a routine for leaving
Routines are liquid gold for toddlers, however brief. If you drop off your child to school or daycare in the morning on your way to work, do a fun activity en route such as singing nursery rhymes together, and drop them off with a big hug, some kind words of encouragement and a warm "I love you". By keeping farewells the same each time, you create a familiar transition for your child from being with you to being without you. If your child is still at home when you have to leave, getting your childcare provider to distract him with a toy or activity will take his mind off the fact that you're leaving and ‘soften’ your absence.
4. Stay connected
Whenever possible, arrange a regular phone call or facetime with your child for a few minutes when they are back home if possible, to keep them happy and feeling secure when you're not with them.
5. Have a dress rehearsal
Treat yourself to a full day out (hello quality time) by having a dry run of going back to work. Leave your child with the caregiver if it’s a weekend or take them to school if it is a weekday and let them experience what it may feel like not being at home with you the whole day. Your child will be thrilled to see you waiting for him at the end of the day, and it will make the new normal much easier to adopt too.
6. Don’t expect too much, too soon
Each of you needs time to adjust to your new daytime arrangements. You are not used to being separated from your child for so long every day, and you also now have to deal with demanding workplace challenges. Likewise, your toddler will most likely miss your constant presence and company throughout the day, so expect a few tears when he finally sees you at the end of the day. No matter what this transition brings, the whole family will eventually settle into a new rhythm. Before you know it, the new normal will just be normal.