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How to say bye to yaya!

Dear Suzi and Paolo,

I would appreciate your advice and tips on how to prepare my toddler for his beloved yaya’s departure. My son is so attached to his yaya, and I’m worried that when she goes, he might get depressed. What can I do to ease the transition? —Lisa

(Manila Bulletin)

(Manila Bulletin)

Suzi says:

Hello there, Lisa!

Thanks for writing in! We’ve definitely been in a similar situation before so I can understand your concern. A good yaya is indeed a blessing so when she is beloved but has to leave, it is quite stressful for the whole family.

 Our eldest daughter had a yaya, Michelle, who was an excellent caregiver. She had to go back to the province because she was about to get married. I didn’t know what to do! So eventually we decided to throw her a going away party to make the whole atmosphere feel festive. I believe Leona was around six or seven at the time and very attached to her yaya. We built up the going away as a celebration of yaya Michelle’s forthcoming wedding. We explained to Leona that yaya was going to have her own family soon! So we got Leona to help decorate our place, ready the cake, etc. so that she felt involved and excited. It was also a way for the rest of us grownups to not feel too sad either. So it was a win-win situation. As yaya was being driven off, it was bitter-sweet but definitely no tears were shed!

With your child being a toddler however, things might be different because he might not be able to understand the concept of why yaya needs to go away. But in any case, do try something like asking both yaya and your child to exchange gifts. Something of a remembrance so that when yaya does leave, your child will have something to hold on to when he misses yaya. Since he is toddler age, he might cry at the visual of seeing yaya leaving. Have them give their gifts, explain as best as you can, but have yaya leave without your child seeing. Your son will look for yaya so do give him the gift (a stuffed toy would be perfect) and tell him that yaya loves him but is off to an adventure! As a toddler, it won’t take too much time for him to “forget” yaya. Especially when you are able to find an excellent new helper. Good luck!

Paolo says:

Hello, Mommy,

Thanks for your letter. What an excellent question. Given our child-rearing culture, yayas are definitely part of every family. And your situation is something that all Filipino families will face at some point. In fact it was something that we faced ourselves with the yaya of our firstborn who had been with us for quite a few years and a few years later, the yaya of our secondborn. Yaya Michelle and Yaya Connie were excellent partners in helping to raise our panganay Leona and her sister Jade. And both our yayas had become valued and important members of our family unit, but as things go, it was eventually their own time now to start their own families at some point. 

We shared your worry when we had to face their leaving. How was our daughter going to take it when her yaya had to leave? She had become quite attached, and understandably so. We tried to prepare her by having a talk with her a few weeks before the event to prepare her. We explained that yaya was going to go home to the province but for quite a while longer than her usual yearly vacation. We said we would throw a despedida party for her, with cake and balloons and asked our daughter to be on top of the “planning.” This kept her excited to do something for her yaya.  On the day itself, we were relieved to see that though she was a bit sad, it wasn’t the overly-tearful goodbye as we had feared. In fact yaya and us probably shed more tears than our daughter did. We also had the good fortune to have our yaya’s sister eventually come to fill in her place, so it somewhat helped ease the sadness. A few years later when our other yaya also eventually had to leave, it was a bit easier as we knew our approach and what to expect. 

This was our strategy and I hope it may help you figure out how to best deal with your situation. Keep in mind, it’s not just your child that you have to be looking out for. You and yaya will also feel the sadness so be prepared for that too. I wish you the best of luck!