Dr. Sarah (00:02):
Ever wonder what psychologists moms talk about when we get together, whether we’re consulting one another about a challenging case or one of our own kids, or just leaning on each other when parenting feels hard, because trust me, even when we do this for a living, it’s still hard. Joining me each week in these special Thursday shows are two of my closest friends, both moms, both psychologists, they’re the people I call when I need a sounding board. These are our unfiltered answers to your parenting questions. We’re letting you in on the conversations the three of us usually have behind closed doors. This is Securely Attached: Beyond the Sessions.
I’m so glad that you are here with us. Thank you so much for being here Dr. Rebecca Hershberg.
Dr. Rebecca (00:54):
My pleasure as always, although I miss Emily.
Dr. Sarah (00:57):
I know I miss Emily too, but she has some family stuff she’s doing. So we are going to answer this listener question. Just the two of us.
Dr. Rebecca (01:07):
Just the two of us.
Dr. Sarah (01:08):
Just the two of us. Oh, Emily’s going to feel so left out when she hears this episode. So the question that we received and that we’re going to address today, it’s a very common one. So this is a dad and he wrote in and he said, my one and a half year old will be changing daycare soon. Do you have thoughts on how to prepare her for this big transition? So I think there’s some really tangible strategies and some ways that we can think about what it means to start daycare and have a big transition, a big separation that we can really help parents think about. And Rebecca want to kick it off?
Dr. Rebecca (01:56):
I can’t pass it to invisible, Emily.
Dr. Sarah (02:00):
We can, but there’ll be some silence for a while.
Dr. Rebecca (02:03):
No, of course. I mean, I get this question a lot both about changing daycares and also changing care providers like changing nannies. And I always start off by reassuring parents that if you do this in a calm and loving way, there’s no need for it to be. Any parents often use the word trauma. Is it going to be traumatic? And no, it’s a change. And a change may mean that your child has feelings about it, but having a secure attachment to a parent or both parents or grandma or whatever, and transitioning another secure attachment, let’s say to a daycare or nanny, whatever, there’s no reason to think that most if not all kids really can get through that in a healthy way. Doesn’t mean they won’t have feelings about it, but the default should be, this might be a big transition for my child. I’m going to do the things that you and I will talk about in a second.
But the assumption can be, and my kid will be fine because I love my kid and my partner loves my kid and my kid is a happy, healthy, well-adjusted kid. And so there’s just no reason that this has to be anything other than a change. And change is part of life. And when we lower our own anxiety about it, as always, our kids take their cues from us and they end up again, they might be sad, they might have questions at one and a half. I don’t know how many questions they’ll have, but as usual with our sense of calm that this is a change that our family needed to make for whatever reason.
Dr. Sarah (03:42):
But I think you bring up a very good point, which is how we feel about it is probably really, really predictive of how well it’s going to go. And that to be fair, we can be very confident and very comfortable with the move and project a sense of confidence. And our kid may still be very upset. They might have regressions, they might struggle in their transition to adapting to the change and can eventually settle into the new thing. So it’s like one, we do want to set the tone because if we go into this white knuckling it, our kid’s going to feel that. And it could really become a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think they’re going to have a really hard time. Chances are they probably could because of the anxiety we are placing on that situation. But on the flip side, even if I have managing my own anxiety and I’m projecting a sense of calm confidence, my kid having a hard time with the transition may not actually be a sign that they aren’t transitioning well.
And that’s super tricky, so hard to hear that. Like we want it to just be distress free and smooth. And we think often that distress free and smooth is a sign that everybody’s okay. And that’s actually not necessarily true. I don’t actually think that a kid has to be distress free for a transition to be okay. And for a kid to be doing a plus, it makes sense that a transition would come with some distress, some protests, some adaptation, some. And when I’m adapting to something, maybe some of my other behaviors start to regress. Maybe my sleep regresses or my feeding schedule, my feeding flexibility regresses. Maybe I’m more irritable with other types of transitions or separations. Maybe I’m more clingy. These are actually not signs that something is wrong. Now, obviously if it was happening for a really prolonged period of time, well after the transition, it’s worth checking in and saying, what do you think could be contributing to this difficulty adapting? But there is a normative amount of time where we’re going to see some reasonable distress, and that’s not in and of itself a sign that something’s wrong. I guess that’s the reassurance I often like to give parents, which is maybe not so reassuring that there might be some crappy weeks as they adapt. But I think parents see that and they freak out. They interpret that as a sign that they’re doing it wrong or something’s wrong. And I think that that’s important just to normalize.
Dr. Rebecca (06:33):
Yeah. Well I often say because parents will say about any, whether it’s changing daycare or nanny or a kid riding the school bus for the first time or going to summer, is my child going to be okay? And I’m always like, I can tell you with a hundred percent certainty that yes, they will be okay and they will have feelings. And those are two totally different things. Your child may have a really hard time on the school bus that first day and maybe for a week or two. But again, having feelings or showing these signs of distress that are more common to younger kids, as you said, the difficulty with the feeding schedule or the sleep regression or whatever it is, doesn’t mean they’re not okay. It means they’re experiencing a change and it’s okay for them to have reactions to that. And when we panic at their reactions, that’s when it becomes a cycle that perhaps makes it worse.
The other thing I just wanted to say, because I was reminded of myself is when you said we can have confidence and our kid might still have a hard time. We can also have a hard time and our kid might still be okay. When my son was eight months is when we moved from the city to the suburbs and we were changing his daycare obviously, and I wet when I picked him up on the last day, I fell apart. I’m hugging everybody. They barely spoke English. I’m speaking my broken Spanish, I’m taking pictures, I’m making a book for my kid. And I was a hundred percent confident in the decision. I was just so sad. It was such a sign that my kids’ first daycare, we were leaving it behind and it was okay. I mean, I think I felt panicked like, oh no, he’s going to pick this up from me. But he didn’t. And I wasn’t anxious. I was sad. And sometimes if a daycare facility or a nanny has been really important to you or the first one that you use when your child was born or something, you can feel really sad to let it go. And that’s okay too. These transitions can be big and can involve feelings for everyone. And again, that’s not a sign that you’re not going to get through them or that they’re not going well. It’s a sign that changes can be emotional and that’s okay.
Dr. Sarah (08:47):
Yes, that’s a really good distinction. I think too, just to pivot now into some strategies for helping a child prepare for a transition. So one is our own perception of it. What is the story we are telling ourselves? How much are we afraid that something bad is going to happen because of this? So we want to check that. But then I do think there are some really kind of concrete things that we could do. And obviously there are going to be developmentally, they’re going to vary based on your child’s age a bit, but as a general concept, preparation is helpful. And the older they are, perhaps the more we want to help them prepare for the complexities if they’re an older kid, if this kid is one and a half years old, so I’ll get to that. But if you have an older kid like five, six, 7-year-old who maybe has had a nanny in their lives to some, has a relationship with a nanny who’s going to be moving to another state or a separation from a significant care provider, we really want to help them prepare for the grief that they might have.
Maybe you don’t use the word grief, but sadness or missing them or thinking of ways that we can stay connected even when we’re not together. And preserving that invisible string of that relationship for really, really little kids like babies and one and a half year olds. And frankly, they do have a lot of transition with their care providers at these young ages because there’s a lot of care that needs to be provided. So you do have to sometimes transition when they’re young. I think, again, I think it’s less about the words and more about our attitude, but I do think helping them preview places, like helping them, and even at one and a half, they’re receptive language is going to be online so they can understand what we’re saying to them even if they can’t have an expressive language. So receptive is what they take in and understand and expressive is what they speak out loud. And so a one and a half year old is going to understand a lot of what you say. And so saying it is helpful and visiting the new place and talking about goodbyes and there’s a book I really love…
Dr. Rebecca (11:16):
Transitional objects always and having the same little bedsheet in their crib in the new place as they had in this place, and maybe not washing it so it has the same smell for a little. I mean all that stuff can be useful for one and a half.
Dr. Sarah (11:35):
Yeah. I also, I think remembering too that when we’re making a change, any change, I talk about this a lot when I talk about new siblings and stuff, like whenever possible it’s a big change is happening. When possible try to minimize the changes. Other changes, like anything that you can control for, obviously if you’re switching daycares because you’re also moving, you’re not going to be able to really control for the fact that you’re going to have multiple big changes happening all at once. But if you’re changing, if you’re getting a different daycare or a different nanny, and there are other things that are less variable to really be conscious of, let’s not start, I’m trying to think what I was going to say. Potty training, but a one and a half year old, probably not going to be that anytime soon. But like…
Dr. Rebecca (12:29):
Dr. Sarah (12:30):
Dr. Rebecca (12:32):
Losing a paci, that sort of thing.
Dr. Sarah (12:36):
Yeah, so mitigating some of the other environmental changes when possible preparation, age appropriate preparation, physically visiting the new space, helping people. I love the idea of a transitional object, but I also think you yourself being a bit of a transitional object when possible. So I like to do a phase in with new daycares if possible. Obviously you got to have to work with the setting that you’re at, but whenever, and also you have to work with your own work schedule. Some people don’t have the ability to take a couple days off of work to do a phase in to a new daycare. But when possible, I will just share what I did with my kids. But I would spend the very first day of the new daycare, I would just go there with them and hang out with them for an hour. And then we left together.
And then the second day I went and I dropped them off for about an hour or 90 minutes or something like that. And then I came back and I picked them up and we went home. And then the third day I dropped them off and they stayed until right before nap. And then I picked them up and they came home. And then the fourth day I let them stay past nap, picked them up, came home, and then the fifth day I let them stay the whole time and picked them up at the end. That’s labor intensive. That works only when you have flexibility with work that doesn’t work for everyone, but if you can do it, it’s worth experimenting with. Or even doing an abbreviated version of that too. Even just going and visiting on a weekend or something and just showing them the space. I think there’s a lot you can do in terms of helping phase in a new experience for them.
Dr. Rebecca (14:23):
Yeah, I agree with all that.
Dr. Sarah (14:26):
Yeah, so talking about it, helping them see it using transitional objects, being a transitional object, talking about goodbyes if goodbyes are a part of it. So there’s a book I really like. There’s a series, the Terrific Toddlers series. Oh my God, I love these books. I think they have six, maybe even eight of them now, but there’s these five little toddlers or four maybe that they repeat throughout the series, so you kind of get to know these little characters. But they have one called Bye-Bye. They now have one called School. And they are so good for toddlers, I really love them for one to three year olds, maybe even four year olds. But they’re super simple. They’re told really through the eyes the experience of the toddler and they do a really good job of talking about presenting kind of the good and the not so good experiences that come with something tough. Right? So bye byes. It’s not just about saying bye-bye and reuniting. It’s like they say, they show the kids’ fear or the kids’ ambivalence, but then they have them experience the parent coming back and they have some mantras that they sort of repeat throughout the book. It’s great and it’s super.
Dr. Rebecca (15:50):
Grownups come back.
Dr. Sarah (15:52):
Yup, Daniel Tiger is also a super good resource for separation.
Dr. Rebecca (15:55):
It’s always, always the go-to for things like this too.
Dr. Sarah (15:59):
Yes, I love Daniel Tiger. I love anything Mr. Rogers of any kind.
Dr. Rebecca (16:04):
A hundred percent.
Dr. Sarah (16:05):
Oh my God, I love Mr. Rogers.
Dr. Rebecca (16:08):
Should we end on that note?
Dr. Sarah (16:09):
Just I think we should, should just end as an ode to Mr. Rogers. If you go and watch his shows or watch Daniel Tiger with your kids, you’ll get some great strategies. Don’t even bother with this podcast anymore. Just go watch old Mr. Rogers episodes and you’ll be fine.
Dr. Rebecca (16:26):
It worked for us.
Dr. Sarah (16:27):
And also, one last thing though I really want to say is to this parent who’s so genuinely and generously thinking about their child’s experience, give yourself a little extra love and care and your partner a little extra love and care that week. Because like Rebecca, like you said, it’s hard for us. It’s so hard for us.
Dr. Rebecca (16:48):
I was a basket case. Absolutely.
Dr. Sarah (16:50):
Yes. So yeah, thank you for asking this. And also go give yourself something really comforting and soothing because it’s hard for a little. Watching a little kid manage a transition is super hard for us too.
Dr. Rebecca (17:05):
Dr. Sarah (17:06):
Thank you. I’ll talk to you soon.
Dr. Rebecca (17:08):
Dr. Sarah (17:10):Thank you so much for listening. As you can hear, parenting is not one size fits all. It’s nuanced and it’s complicated. So I really hope that this series where we’re answering your questions really helps you to cut through some of the noise and find out what works best for you and your unique child. If you have a burning parenting question, something you’re struggling to navigate or a topic you really want us to shed light on or share research about, we want to know, go to drsarahbren.com/question to send in anything that you want, Rebecca, Emily, and me to answer in this new series Securely Attached: Beyond the Sessions. That’s drsarahbren.com/question. And check back for a brand new securely attached next Tuesday. And until then, don’t be a stranger.
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