For example, when I am dropping her off at her grandparents for a day visit I am encouraged to sneak out while she is in another room rather than say goodbye which can cause a great deal of tears and tantrums.
I tried the sneak out a few times and while it meant there were no tears at the time of departure it also meant that our little one was somewhat aloof when I came to get her at the end of the day. I really think she felt slightly betrayed.
I am sure that she is capable of thoughts such as “Why did dad leave me, why didn’t he say goodbye and is he coming back for me?” Pretty scary questions for a little kidsy.
I am also sure that she is intelligent enough to know that I left while she wasn’t looking. Not a particularly great action to inspire your child’s confidence and trust in you if you ask me.
We have found it best to tell her exactly what is going on even if it means a little pain in the beginning. During breakfast I will say,
“Today we are going to visit Nan and Pop. Won’t that be great?”
“Hooray” she replies, clapping her hands. She really does love both sets of grandparents.
We then talk all about Nan and Pop and how much they love her and how much fun they will all have together.
On the drive to Nans I say, “We are almost at Nan and Pops. We will go in and say hello. Daddy will then leave you there for a while so you can play together and I will be back later in the day to pick you up OK?”
“Yes” she says.
Finally, just before I leave I repeat the same thing again. Usually I get no reply. This generally means that she understands but is not completely happy about it. We kiss goodbye and I try to get her to walk to the door with me to wave goodbye.
Initially we came across a lot of resistance to this technique as we were told that she was too young to understand (she was one at the time) and because she cried so much the first couple of times as we were leaving we were told it was better to sneak off so she would not be too upset. We disagreed and we persisted.
After two or three times our little one is no longer fazed by the day visits anymore. I always tell her that I am going and that I will be back later to pick her up. She now stands at the door and waves goodbye. She also runs to greet me when I return and there is none of the aloofness I found when I used to sneak off.
It may be that she is just getting used to the stays but it could also be that she is no longer fazed by them because she feels comfortable and secure. She knows that Daddy is going away for a little while and that Daddy will be coming back as I have told her this before and it was true.
I believe that the building of trust between parent and child to be one of the most important goals of parenting. If there is trust in this relationship then at least there is no need for her to feel nervous or abandoned by the situation. There is no need for any anxiety as she knows what to expect.
Would you trust someone who constantly lies to you…?