Question: My 17 month old has not taken to day care at all. She cries at drop off every single time for the past four months. She goes to day care two times a week. I need to continue with day care, as I have resumed (part time) work. How can I make the drop offs a little easier on both of us. When I pick her up she seems happy and the staff tell me she settles in a few minutes of me leaving, but I worry this is not the case and they are only saying that to make me feel better.
Answer: I understand your concerns, as four months is a long time for the separation tears to have continued. The two days a week sounds fine for her age and isn’t too much. Most children will take about 4 weeks or so of being upset when you leave, so them be able to cope with the sepration. And yes, some staff may well and truly tell you ‘she is fine a few minutes after you leave’ just to make you feel better, however the vast majority of staff would not do so. They would be concerned for your daughter and her adjustment just as you are, if she was inconsolable after you leave. So by four weeks you certainly need to change the situation for her.
There are a few different strategies to try, here are just a few. You will need to work out what is possible and chat to the staff and see what they also suggest. If she starts to get upset in the car, then distraction is a good idea here, get her brain thinking about something else. Give her a job to do, ie. Carry her back pack, give her jobs to do once in her room, ie. Lunchbox away, not you as her brain needs something else to think of. Keep the drop offs to the same time each morning, get her involved quickly when you arrive in an activity that is not you carrying or holding her ie. Sit down and do a puzzle. Stay for a few moments and leave quickly, but make sure you say goodbye, no sneaking out no matter how tempting it may be. Find a staff member who is better at handling her ie. Stays calm and distracts her, get them to praise her for coping after you have gone. Sometimes having her wave goodbye at the fence or window as you walk out, gives her an activity to do and helps with the transition of goodbye.
To reassure yourself that she is ok, after you drive away with a heavy heart, phone the centre within 5 minutes of leaving and check, you are not bothering them, it is your child and checking she is fine should be welcomed if she is having difficulty. You can always leave and then peek back after 5 mins to reassure yourself (without her seeing you) that she has coped, moved on and is happy.