Learning to Say Goodbye

It's time to go to work, or you need to leave your child with a caregiver for a few hours.

As you try to walk out the door, your child starts crying, kicking, and whining. You may feel guilty about leaving and embarrassed that your child is acting like this. But what do you do?

As bad as this might make you feel, remember that your child's behavior is normal. Young children often don't like having to be separated from their parents, but they need to learn to say goodbye.

Your child needs chances to learn that although you leave, you will come back. Remember, too, that those tantrums are a sign that your child loves you. As children learn that a parent who is leaving will come back, they begin to feel more secure, and saying goodbye becomes easier.

How to Make Goodbyes Easier

There are some things you can do to help your child prepare for you to leave.

sad toddler

What to Do If You're Feeling Worried

Though there may be tears when you leave, remember that your child will probably be playing happily a few minutes later.

If you are upset or worried about leaving your child, you can do some things to ease your concern.

What to Do When You Come Back

Coming back to your child should be a good experience.

There are ways to make this time an important part of learning to say goodbye:

What to Do If You'll Be Away for a Long Time

There may be times when separation is more difficult for you and your child.

Sometimes parents must leave for several days or more. To make long separations easier, try these ideas:

When children have a really hard time with separations, they may show grief, loss, anger, clinging, whining, or babyish behavior like thumb sucking or having toilet accidents. Remember that it takes time to learn to accept change. Be patient and reassuring. Children need parents to be calm and confident as they learn to say goodbye.

Resources That Help

Sometimes books can help children understand saying goodbye. You may want to read one or more of the books listed here to your child. Check your local library or bookstore for these and other books about saying goodbye.