Q: My 20-month-old daughter (adopted 10 months ago) seems more attached to our babysitter than to me.
We bonded quickly, but, since my going back to work, she basically ignores me as I leave in the morning. Work is a necessity, and I know it’s not the babysitter’s fault, but this feels devastating. What can I do to strengthen our attachment?
A: When young children have a history of several caregivers, they learn to attach quickly to each new adult they meet, as a survival mechanism. Thus, she bonded quickly with the babysitter, as she did with you. But there are ways to reinforce your existing bond verbally or sensually throughout the day, despite your absence, and remind your daughter that your relationship is primary:
- Call home and speak briefly to your daughter every couple of hours.
- Prepare snacks for your daughter. Ask the babysitter to say, “Your Mommy made this for you,” as she offers the food.
- Tape-record yourself as you cuddle with your daughter and read her a story. When the babysitter plays it for her, it will evoke the warm memory of being held by you.
- Develop a special hug or bedtime ritual that only you share with your daughter. Ask the babysitter never to share that same kind of hug or ritual.
- Leave a transitional object, such as a stuffed animal that you both hug at bedtime, with your daughter. Ask the babysitter to remind your daughter that Mommy loves her when she gives her the object to play with.