I've read all of your columns about transitioning to daycare, but after three weeks, it seems that my 16-month-old daughter isn't getting any better. In fact, each day seems progressively worse, beginning now with refusal to even get in the car seat in the morning. We do prepare her by telling her that she's going to school and that we will be back for her and to have a good day before we hand her off to a teacher after a quick goodbye. We also try to spend a few minutes getting her acclimated to the daycare surroundings before we do the hand-off. I observe that she continues to cry hysterically for at least another 45 minutes. Sometimes the caregivers are holding her, but sometimes she's just crying and following them around with hands outstretched asking to be held. After that, I can't take it anymore and head off to work. Am I being paranoid by thinking this is not a good place since she's not used to it yet, or is all of this normal? What can I do to make it better?
From: Edna, San Francisco
You say that you "observe" that she continues to cry for another 45 minutes, and then you can't take it anymore and head off to work. Does your daughter somehow know that you are still there, watching her? Even if you are watching behind a one-way glass, is it possible (and I hate to think this, but...) the teachers tell her you are watching? Plus, if you see this going on every day, that's doing a huge number on you. It has to be making you edgy and tense (at the least) every night as you anticipate the next morning. Young children pick up on parental stress and anxiety, so the two of you could be feeding off each other. This is my best guess.
Bottom line, though, is that three weeks is a long time for a separation problem of this intensity to go on. So, no, this is not typical and not healthy for anyone involved, from you and your daughter to the other children in the classroom.
Are you being paranoid? Of course not. You're a mom who's watching your daughter reach out to a caregiver, who isn't always picking her up! C'mon! That's hard to watch. Maybe it's time to stop watching. Maybe it's time to actually leave when you tell your daughter you are leaving. Should you make a change of caregivers? That's hard to know. It would be better if the problem can be worked out here, than to bounce a young child around. But if this continues to not abate......
Questions to consider: Do you feel like the teachers are giving you guidance, empathy, and strategies? (It does bother me that they would let this go on for so long at this intensity, simply because it's not good for the other kiddos to see this, either.) Have you requested a meeting with the teachers and the director? Is it possible something else is going on with your daughter? An illness? Some other circumstances at home that are adding stress? Have you just gone back to work after being home with her?
Hopefully, answering these questions will provide some clarity for you.
(For those of you who want more on separation anxiety, here's at least one of the links I think Edna is talking about.)
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