Leaving an angsty toddler with the sitter

For parents of toddlers, nights out don’t usually start out on the same foot as, say, Cinderella riding an enchanted carriage to a ball. Instead, they usually involve parents gritting their teeth and bolting out the front door, hoping they don’t hear their toddler cry before they get to the car.

If Baby struggles to be left with the sitter while you walk out the front door, there are ways to make the transition easier for everyone involved. Different things work for different people, but if you’re not sure where to start, the following tips are parent-tested and approved.

Don’t make it seem like a big deal

It’s important to keep in mind that Baby can sense when you’re nervous, which will probably cause them to feel nervous and afraid. Stay calm and upbeat; try to project an air of confidence, even if deep down, you’re dreading the possibility of a crying toddler.

Avoid the hand-off

While it’s beautiful in its symbolism, physically handing Baby to the babysitter is very likely to freak your toddler out and make them cry. Instead, try putting Baby down in a neutral place, and wait a moment while they and the sitter get better acquainted, to make the transition less jarring.

Distract and detach

Whether it’s a new toy, a movie, or a snack, try to say goodbye and leave when Baby is focused on something else. This isn’t to say that you should sneak out without a goodbye (that’s not a great way to go, either, and can lead to them being even clingier next time around), but a little distraction is a good thing. You can also talk to Baby about all the fun things that they get to do with the babysitter while you’re away.

Don’t question your bond!

Lots of great parents worry that the act of leaving – especially when a toddler appears upset – can hurt the relationship they’ve been working to build with their child. Fortunately, experts say this isn’t the case, so don’t stress yourself out worrying whether Baby will think of you less, or feel less attached to you in the future. It’s just not happening!

Think big picture

It’s easier said than done, but remember: while leaving is difficult, Baby will most likely spring right back to normal a few minutes after your departure. Yes, it can be emotionally taxing to go through a drawn-out departure at the beginning of the night, but those difficult initial moments aren’t the whole picture of either of your nights. How Baby acts when you’re leaving is less important than how they act when you’ve been gone for a little while.

If possible, prepare in advance

In the future, try to familiarize Baby with separation by leaving them with a trusted parent or parent-in-law of yours. Grandparents are usually game to watch their grandchild, and it will help make Baby more comfortable with being watched by someone else. When you decide on a babysitter, spend a little time with them and Baby to see how the two get along. Then start leaving them alone together in small increments of time. You can leave for five minutes, fifteen minutes, an hour – practice makes perfect!

The bottom line on leaving Baby with the sitter

Knowing your child’s temperament will help you decide what strategies work best for the nights that you leave Baby with a babysitter. The whole process gets easier with time, and in the long run, helping Baby get more comfortable with being left with a babysitter will ready them for things like daycare, preschool, or kindergarten. Plus, don’t forget that you deserve some time to yourself!

  • “Traveling Without Your Child.” KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation, Jun 2014. Web.
  • “Leaving a Child Alone with a Babysitter.” NYC. City of New York, 2016. Web.

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