Separation Anxiety

by Kat

Hi there,

I hope you don't mind me posting a question - I am not a parent, instead I am a childcare provider. I am trying to find out if there is something I can do, as the caregiver, to make a situation better for both baby, parent and myself. In doing so, I hope you find out if there are any suggestions I can provide for the mother too. Luckily, the mother and I have a good relationship, and she does respect any kind of advice I may have because I do have a lot of experience and a background in child studies. Okay so here's the situation:

I have been an occasional babysitter for this family for 3 years now and just recently they've welcomed a new addition to their family. For the first 5 months, I would only help out when the mother was there or while the baby was asleep (and parents were out). However, more recently, the mother has been asking me to care for her daughter during the day while she helps out at her son's school.

Unfortunately, this doesn't go so well for me or the baby. Even after spending time together, (mom, me +baby) and establishing a bond with her (at times she would be comfortable with me even while mom was gone), her daughter still, for the most part, cries and screams consistently when the mother leaves and is completely inconsolable. Even if the mother returns, she is unable to be calmed until a little afterward.

From what I have been told, she also has trouble even with being cared for (fed, put to bed, bathed, etc) by the father, who is home most evenings/weekends.

I am familiar with attachment styles and temperaments, so I have tried responding to her with respect to this but it is still very difficult. It breaks my heart to see her get visibly shaken, angry and distraught and for me to be no help at all.

I have come to notice that she even avoids looking at me (now 9 mo), for example she won't allow me to feed her, but will eat her Baby Mum Mum with her head looking down (crying but calm enough) and if she accidentally catches a glimpse of my face, she screams/wails (even if I am smiling, unfortunately).

As of now, other than spending the together time with mom, I have just tried caring for her while keeping her turned away from me. I still talk to her, nurture her, play with her etc but just do so without her having to see my face - she'll calm right down and find contentment, but if she looks up and sees my face, she gets upset again.

If this is the solution then fair enough, but hopefully something else can be done because she really is a wonderful little girl to be around when she feels safe/trusting.

Anyway, the only other details I have are that the mom was unable to breast feed, her daughter does not conform to a schedule despite many attempts. She is otherwise developmentally on target and healthy, the mother spends most of the day with her but they are social (go out shopping, to mommy & me classes etc.)

I know that I am just the babysitter, but we really have been working together because I know the mom is desperate to have some alone time and wife+husband time without having to worry about what her daughter is going through at home. I know there isn't much else I can do that I haven't tried but any suggestions for me or the mom would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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