Mom's regretting change of daycare

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  November 22, 2011 06:00 AM

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Barbara,

I have two boys 4 years and 11 months. My four year old has attended a corporate daycare center near my work in MA since he was 19 months old. The commute from NH to MA is long, and the center is very expensive. After our second son was born, we finally realized it is not worth working for 500$ a week in daycare cost. We just switched both boys to a smaller, independent center near our home in NH. My younger son is thriving in the non-corporate, less crowded environment. My four year old is not thriving. He misses his friends, claims no one likes him, and has already had a physical spat with another boy. He does like the teachers and the environment, but I don't think he is open to making new friends, and the boys his age want nothing to do with the new kid. What can I do to ease the pain? I feel horrible. How much time is normal for a 4yo to transition? I just want to see him smiling and having fun again and not feel as though I've done him a horrible injustice!

Thanks,

From: Carolyn, Plaistow, NH

Dear Carolyn,

I wish I could tell you a magic number for how long it takes a child to be comfortable in a new setting. What you can expect to see is some days that seem a little better until gradually those days outnumber the unhappy ones. Here are some suggestions for easing the transition:

1. Compare notes with the teachers daily until this settles in and make sure they know what he says at home about school. Sometimes what they see isn't the same as what you hear. I wouldn't be surprised if they're saying, "Oh, he had a great day! He played with X," on the same day he tells you he had no one to play with. If he's coming from a setting where he played with groups of kids, or where playmates were interchangable, having only one playmate is simply different for him -- not necessarily bad -- but he may be looking longingly at the groups of playmates. Skilled teachers should be able to help him join into group play. Do they know he had a "spat" with another child? Are they on top of their interactions?

2. Stay positive. If you start to waver -- "Oh, I wish we hadn't left your old school!" -- or complain about something that's different here, he'll pick right up on that and run with it. Your job is to let him know that you choose a school you think is wonderful (don't compare the two places). It's OK to acknowledge that he misses aspects of his former school -- "You really miss Miss Stephanie, don't you?" Once you validate that feeling, he'll be more able to consider attributes of the current teachers: "I wonder if Mrs. G knows that song you like about clean up?"

3. He's noticing differences. Differences aren't by definition bad. It's OK to point out and acknowledges differences, and then let it go. For instance, if he says, "I don't like X," mirror that back to him: "This school does X in a different way, doesn't it?" Period.

4. Ask the teacher for one or two children who seem to be potential friends and make playdates, one-on-one.

5. Can you volunteer in the classroom? That shows him your level of investment. It also gives you a chance to see what's really happening and to give you shared points of reference. I'm guessing it's not as bad as he's telling you.

It takes a lot of energy for a young child to hold it together in a new setting; when he comes home to his safe haven, he needs to collapse. You have to find a way to tolerate that. This is a process that will take time. Stop beating up on yourself. Kids are far more resilient than we give them credit for.


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1 comments so far...
  1. Barbara, I think your suggestions are great, but I question whether the Mom can really do all of them. Remember, she has a really long commute and works outside the home (probably full-time).

    I used to work full-time, and even with a *short* commute, I found it incredibly challenging to find time to host one-on-one play dates. By the time I picked the kids up in the evening, we basically had time for dinner and a bath before bed. The weekends were even more hectic---that was the only time I had to catch up on things like grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning the house, etc. It was also the only time *I* got to spend one-on-one with my kids.

    Furthermore, I certainly had no way of volunteering in the classroom while I was working full-time, seeing how all the volunteer opportunities were obviously during the day when I was working. Sure, I could have taken some precious vacation time to do that, but when you have only three weeks vacation time total (and many people may have less than that), you kind of want to spend it on things like family visits with your parents or in-laws, who you may only get to see a couple times a year.

    I guess this is a sensitive subject for me because my oldest child also had some problems at school at one time while I was working full time, and people made very similar suggestions to me. I remember thinking that although they meant well, they were completely out of touch with what my life as a working mom was like.

    Posted by Robin November 23, 11 04:16 AM
 
1 comments so far...
  1. Barbara, I think your suggestions are great, but I question whether the Mom can really do all of them. Remember, she has a really long commute and works outside the home (probably full-time).

    I used to work full-time, and even with a *short* commute, I found it incredibly challenging to find time to host one-on-one play dates. By the time I picked the kids up in the evening, we basically had time for dinner and a bath before bed. The weekends were even more hectic---that was the only time I had to catch up on things like grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning the house, etc. It was also the only time *I* got to spend one-on-one with my kids.

    Furthermore, I certainly had no way of volunteering in the classroom while I was working full-time, seeing how all the volunteer opportunities were obviously during the day when I was working. Sure, I could have taken some precious vacation time to do that, but when you have only three weeks vacation time total (and many people may have less than that), you kind of want to spend it on things like family visits with your parents or in-laws, who you may only get to see a couple times a year.

    I guess this is a sensitive subject for me because my oldest child also had some problems at school at one time while I was working full time, and people made very similar suggestions to me. I remember thinking that although they meant well, they were completely out of touch with what my life as a working mom was like.

    Posted by Robin November 23, 11 04:16 AM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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