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I don't get nearly as much one on one time with my daughter as I would like or nearly as much as my wife has with her since my wife is a SAHM.

I knew it was only a matter of time before my 2 yo started doing something before I left for work. But I had always assumed it would be tears or something...."big".

Instead, when I ask her for a hug and a kiss before I leave for work in the morning, she simply disengages and lies on her tummy and hides her face.

It breaks my heart to watch and it's unclear to me what exactly is going on or how to handle this in a healthy way. I don't know if I should follow her and maybe tickle her to make her laugh - because that could be denying her the space to have her honest reaction. Or if I should leave her be and let her mope a bit - because that might be too cold/calloused.

I feel that if she were crying, I could simply hold her and let her cry and when she calmed down a bit I could tell her about how we'll be able to play when I get home but have a responsibility to my coworkers and boss at work.

but this is...less tangible.

Any advice here would be appreciated.

UPDATE This seems worth adding: "I'm not trying to keep her from being sad, no. What I want is for her to fully experience her sadness and see that the world isn't ending. But I feel that she's already trying to hide from what's happening by hiding her face the way she is."

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Some children cry, some children pout. Sounds like she is a pouter. You can still react the same way as you would if she was crying, or if she turns away, let her pout in peace. All kids go through that, it's not really a big deal. –  Bobo Aug 6 at 15:41
    
I don't think it's a "big deal". I'm just curious if anyone has had positive experiences with similar reactions. –  Ramy Aug 6 at 17:53

3 Answers 3

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I think your daughter is expressing her sadness in her own way. Every child varies in how they express emotions, and not every child will cry. Maybe by turning her face away from you, she is coping with your absence by giving herself some control over your leaving. In other words, she will stop seeing you at the moment SHE chooses; she will not be at the mercy of someone else's schedule.

I think you should trust your daughter to know how best to deal with her own feelings.

Just give her an affectionate, but quick! goodbye and then leave. Not only will this be compassionate--because you won't prolong the agony--but it will be reassuring. You will communicate through your behavior that your absence is not a tragedy, and that you know she will survive unscathed.

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Every parent tries to figure out how to keep their first child from being sad when they leave, and I don't know a single one who succeeded. It's just something kids have to go through, and they will grow out of it when they are mature enough to realize you are coming back.

Until that time, any cheering up you try to do just prolongs the agony. If she sees you having a difficult time leaving that makes it worse. Just give a quick hug and kiss, reassure her you'll be back later, then leave. She should be fine 5 or 10 minutes after you leave.

Whether she screams or just mopes, your reaction should be the same. The person leaving does it cheerfully and quickly, and the person staying behind does the comforting and distracting.

That's easier said than done, I know. I found it less hard for me to leave when I saw my first daughter calming down after a few minutes when my wife would go somewhere alone.

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I'm not trying to keep her from being sad, no. What I want is for her to fully experience her sadness and see that the world isn't ending. But I feel that she's already trying to hide from what's happening by hiding her face the way she is. –  Ramy Aug 7 at 15:38
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@Ramy I think it is just her way of being sad. I think she is already fully experiencing sadness. –  Ida Aug 8 at 16:37

It takes a while for a child to become confident that a parent leaving will come back. Give her time to learn this. Younger children only have a vague understanding of time and have great difficulties looking ahead for longer than a few minutes, but eventually they will learn that absence is only temporarily.

If you want to ease the path to this perception, give her opportunity to learn it by employing shorter absences. Tell the child that you leave for a moment and will be back when you need to walk outside to the car to pick up something you forgot, or when you leave for an hour to buy something. Shorter absences, combined with the prediction that you will be back will make the child more confident that you will return at some point.

If you do this, always honestly tell the time you expect to be away: "for a few minutes", "for an hour or two". This is not because a child of that age understands the times you indicate, but because you will employ different subconscious signals (voice accentuation, mimic, gestures etc) from which a child might get clues as to what to expect. (That sometimes such predictions are way off is just another lesson a child will have to learn: "Honey, I had to make a detour and it took way longer than I expected.")

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