Healthy KidsYMCA Child Care

4 tips to help your child deal with separation anxiety in child care

09 August 2023 - by YMCA of Greater Toronto

With updates from Tia Morrison on 08/09/2023

Separation anxiety is a common and normal fear that children have of being away from their parents or caregivers, and we often see it in child care. It's on many of our minds now, as we prepare to begin or get back to drop-off routines at school and child care.

YMCA Child Care Educators understand separation anxiety at child care and can support you as your child works through this development phase. They suggest the following four strategies.

Tip #1: Prepare and practice

Visit the school or child care centre with your child before their first day. You can book a tour by calling your child care centre or filling out the tour inquiry form at Even just seeing the building itself, from the outside, will help your child more easily picture what it’s going to be like.

Talk to your child about what they will do at school or child care. It will give them a sense of security to have an idea of what's coming — not to mention, it will pique their curiosity and maybe even get them excited!

A young child in a pink long sleeved top holds modelling clay in both hands

Tip #2: Build feelings of trust and safety 

Engage with your child in something they enjoy doing before you leave for child care each morningYou’ll help lift their mood and associate heading to school or child care with positive feelings. 

Children and educators play outdoors at the North York YMCA Child Care playground. A child throws a red ball.

Tell your child when you will return and follow through on that promise.

Keep goodbyes short. As hard as it is to leave your child when they are upset, long goodbyes only prolong those tough feelings. 

A parent and a child enter the door of a YMCA child care centre

Tip #3: Reconnect 

When you pick up your child, spend extra time together. Talk to your child about what they enjoyed that day.

A parent in a bright teal top with glasses and a child in a star patterned top play with building blocks in a YMCA child care classroom

Tip #4: Collaborate with your educators

Connect with teachers or educators in the program. Talk to them about how your child is feeling and, together, make a plan to best support your child.

Understanding what your child is going through and having a few coping strategies ready can help both of you get through this unique phase together.

The YMCA is the largest not-for-profit child care provider in Canada. With 50+ years of experience, we provide high-quality programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children. Inquire about your child care needs today.


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