The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
Q: My 3-year-old son just started going to day care a few weeks ago and he cries and cries when I drop him off. I can’t stop thinking about how upset he seems. I notice when we are at home, he prefers Daddy more than me, because he probably is upset that I am taking him to day care. I am so upset and feel so guilty for leaving him at day care. How can I make this better?
A: There is nothing wrong with taking your son to day care, the Help for Families panel says. There is no reason for you to feel guilty about taking him there, and, be reassured, your son doesn’t blame you.
“You are projecting your own guilt onto your child,” says panelist Bill Vogler. “A 3-year-old doesn’t have the ability to do what you’re describing — to resent you because you take him to day care.”
Crying when encountering something new is pretty normal behavior for a young child, says panelist Denise Continenza.
“Talk with his teacher and find out what he’s like after you leave,” Continenza says. “In most cases, children transition and settle down. Ask how long it takes.”
Be patient. It takes time for a child to adjust to something new.
“It hasn’t been that long,” says panelist Rochelle Freedman. “It’s amazing how quickly things can change with kids.”
You also may be adding to the problem because you are getting so upset.
“Your son is probably responding to your anxiety,” Freedman says.
“Communicate enthusiasm and optimism and he will pick up on that,” agrees Continenza.
Remain calm and try not to react emotionally. You don’t want to encourage the crying by giving it a lot of attention.
“Children only continue behavior that works for them,” says panelist Marcie Lightwood.
Give him a toy or transitional object to take with him to make him feel more comfortable in the new environment, says Vogler.
“Make time to stay a little longer when you drop him off,” he says. “Get him engaged in playing with the toys before you leave.”
Talk to the day care teacher and ask her to help you to make the transition easier, the panel says.
“Most day cares should be able to help you with this,” Vogler says.
You also can call the day care later in the day to see how he’s doing to help your peace of mind, says Lightwood. Some day cares even have Webcams that let you check on your child from your computer at work.
Continenza suggests you alternate with his father to drop him off to help reduce your guilt feelings.
“That way dad is equally guilty,” she says but adds, “there are plenty of good things he will get out of day care.”
If the crying continues, check to make sure there is no problem at the day care.
“He may be telling you it’s the wrong place for him,” Lightwood says.
- Talk with his teacher and find out what he’s like after you leave.
- Be patient. It takes times for a child to adjust to something new.
- Remain calm and try not to react emotionally.
- Give him a toy or transitional object to take with him to make him feel more comfortable.
- Stay longer when you drop him off and engage him in playing with the toys before you leave.
- Call the day care later in the day to see how he’s doing.