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The daycare blues

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#1 EBeditor

Posted 07 February 2012 - 09:19 AM

Posted on behalf of kylie..

As I mounted the steps of the fabulous new childcare building, a division of the exciting community hub built by the local council in our area, my gut churned. It was part food poisoning from the previous night’s dinner, and part familiar dread at settling a child into care. Again.

All my children have attended childcare for one day a week from the age of one. I chose a council-run centre because I liked the feel of the place and the fact it was non-profit. The Italian cook who produced the most amazing-smelling food may have also swayed my decision. The staff had been there almost as long as the idea of childcare existed and were all like lovable aunts who adored children. Clearly not there for the money!

Each of my children has responded hesitantly to childcare. As expected. Taken to a building they don’t know with a group of unfamiliar children and adults, and then their parent left. Too young to have a concept that we would return. Naturally, they eventually acclimatised and learned to enjoy the experience of different toys and stimulus and have made some great little friends over the years.
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Despite my retrospective wisdom that their time at childcare improves each week, with the crying lessening, and the resistance waning, I was apprehensive about enrolling my daughter. She has grown up in a house quite different from her brothers. Only recently, both my husband and I have structured work so we complete tasks from home. As a result she has had not one, but two parents, almost constantly present. When one parent leaves to attend a meeting or client appointment, she has the other parent there. In addition, she has three older brothers, so is very used to being surrounded by family. Throw in a tendency to be a clingy baby - until her first birthday she released a smile to few and far between, even holding her grandparents with a reserved look of suspicion.

As we entered the new room, she was clambering to get out of my arms and play with all the wonderful toys. Yay! We sat with her on the floor as she explored and climbed, banged and tapped, showing her brothers all the magnificent discoveries she had made. Then it was time to leave. We made a quick getaway whilst she was happy and distracted, knowing that once she realised we were gone there would be tears.

I called two hours later to see how she was doing and was told that they were just about to ring me. She was not coping. She’d had a short sleep and then woke to the realisation that she was still in THIS PLACE with THESE PEOPLE who are not parents or my brothers. So she screamed. For an hour. They tried all manner of tricks – offering food and drink, but she chose a hunger strike and stiff-board tantrum, they brought her three year old brother down to play with her but this caused him distress when he saw her so upset. They tried distraction – reading books, walks outside to see the trees and birds, sandpit, noisy toys, swings. In the end she even refused to be held. When I went to collect her, she was lying on her tummy on a mat on the floor with one of the carers next to her. I thought she was asleep apart from her little body rhythmically convulsing in sobs. They said she seemed calmer when she had some personal space so they just stayed next to her and let her lie on the floor.

Oh the guilt. The horrendous motherly guilt at traumatising my child with a two hour experience that still left her sobbing an hour after I picked her up. It was like she had given up on ever seeing us again. Or maybe that is a complete overdramatisation.

From a parent’s perspective, it is not a cruel and unusual arrangement. I work one day a week, two of my children attend childcare while I do that, the other two are at school. The hours are not too long, and the six other days of the week they are with one or both of their parents. But when I saw her lying on the floor sobbing, I thought what have I done? Is it really worth this? Will it get better? Should I persist or abandon and find another solution?

I will try again next week and hopefully with baby steps, she will eventually get used to the idea of being left with the carers who will become familiar. At only one day a week, the process will be long and drawn out so I’m not sure how long her or I will last. I look forward to the day where she runs in with her brother and waves an enthusiastic goodbye at the window.

Did your children have trouble settling into childcare? How did you/they overcome this?

#2 livingindarwin

Posted 07 February 2012 - 10:50 AM

Perhaps I've just been lucky, or perhaps it's because I spent a long time gradually getting her used to the idea, but we've never had trouble when we left DD at daycare. I was pretty worried about daycare and skeptical that kids really enjoyed it, but after a couple of weeks of it my DD would find her daycare bag and point to the door, and if I asked her whether she wanted to go to daycare, she would nod.

There was a long easing-in process, which I started a month before I had to go back to work.  I did a couple of sessions where we visited and I stayed nearby while she played (she was 13mo).  Then I tried leaving her and sitting in the daycare staff room.  They called me back after 20 minutes saying she sounded a bit worried, so that's all we did for that day.  A few days later, she did an hour happily, then we did two half days, before progressing to full days twice a week.  I still visited her at lunchtime for a month.  The lunchtime visits weren't really because she needed them emotionally but because I was still bfing and couldn't express.

I was surprised she did so well, because she was a really clingy baby, and I ended up baby-wearing her, co-sleeping, and breastfeeding round the clock for pretty much the first 12 months.  Not because I had set out to do so, but because she would get so upset if I didn't, and some brief attempts at letting her calm her self down had only made things worse.  She was also hopeless with routine.  I cannot describe just how random her sleep was, and all naps were 40 minutes.  It was like it took almost 11 months for her circadian rhythm to really kick in.  She still had no routine to her daytime naps when she started daycare, and she didn't settle into a routine until about 16mo when she dropped to one nap a day and then that (finally!) was fairly predictably after lunch.  (If this sounds like your baby, take heart from the fact that in our case it led to her growing into a really easygoing, flexible toddler.  She does need to go down by 8pm now, but during the day she just rolls with changes of plans and thwarted expectations.)  

From about 8 months, I regularly left her with her granny for a few hours at a time (granny was happy to cuddle her all the time and sleep with her) so I think she had the concept that mum could leave and would come back, and substitute carers could be trusted.  From 10 months I'd sometimes leave her with some other people she knew too.

I have never tried to sneak off without saying good-bye - at first just because I'd got a lot of advice not to do that (however tempting) because it can make them more clingy and insecure, but then also because I found the act of waving good-bye was something she enjoyed, as though it made her feel she was participating in the decision and understood what was going on.  One of the carers would always have her on their hip or lap when I left for the first couple of months, which I'm sure helped ease the transition.  After a few months, though, she'd just run straight in and hug the carers then want to play, barely pausing to give me a kiss before I left.  When I pick her up she runs over to me with the biggest grin for a cuddle, then shows me everything she's played with.  I always tell her, 'I'm so happy to see you!" and never say I've missed her, because I don't want her to think that I'm sad, even though sometimes I am.

It is an adjustment for them.  The carers told me that she struggled to go to sleep and stay asleep for the first few days (they pat them to sleep and stay with them, so it wasn't difficulty self-settling or anything, it was just the weirdness of being in a new place), and I was a bit worried.  But then everything came good and I think she just needed a few days to adjust - to learn she could trust the carers and familiarise herself with the daycare centre.

#3 Penguin78

Posted 07 February 2012 - 12:33 PM

We are still struggling a bit.

My son has been in daycare for one day a week since he was 9 months. It wasn't in my original plan, but I needed to return to work and the grandparent care for that day fell through, so daycare became our only option.

He settled in reasonably quickly during the day, but the drop off has always been teary. Now he is 15 months and in two days and I was hoping that would settle him in more, however now he is more aware and as soon as we pull up to the centre, he starts to cry. Now when i leave, he bangs on the windows cry1.gif

I know however, from waiting outside and peering in, that the tears last two minutes, and then he is happy playing around with the other kids (he LOVES other kids) and the toys. The day care staff also reassure me that he is happy all day, and sleeps and eats well while he is there.

It is just the drop off that tears my heart. ddown.gif

I debate every Wednesday and Friday whether I am doing the right thing. But if its only a few minutes of crying then that is ok.. right?? right???


#4 butterfly-vjb

Posted 07 February 2012 - 02:42 PM

It is so hard isn't it.  I dropped my son off this morning for his 4th one day a week in care.  He started sobbing when I was saying goodbye, as he has done each week.  His carers reassure me he soon settles and has a great day but I feel so sad for him and wish there was something I could do to make the leaving easier for both of us.

#5 T2Mum

Posted 07 February 2012 - 02:50 PM

I think it is one thing if they settle after you leave, but if she continues to be distressed for long periods of time I think you will need to rethink your daycare plans.

#6 pregnantladybird

Posted 07 February 2012 - 09:56 PM

if you are paying for more than one anyway could you get a nanny/student to look after 2 or 3 of them at home for that day? I think 1 is too early to cope with that level of distress - its a hard one sad.gif

#7 pregnantladybird

Posted 07 February 2012 - 09:58 PM

and i agree with not sneaking off without saying goodbye - she needs to learn to trust that she can count on you and know what is happening. I have been guilty of this myself but i think in the long term it makes leaving harder more often, for longer..

#8 sara69

Posted 08 February 2012 - 12:12 PM

Have you tried family daycare? I tried to settle my daughter in a centre when she was 8 months old as i had to return back to work, the first time I left her their buy herself (I was in another room in the centre) we had a similar situation. I looked for a family daycare and found a great one, my daughter immediately felt comfortable with her and there have never been cries. I think daycare centres can just be too big especially if your baby is very young. It is easier to just get used to one carer and a few other kids then a large centre with a number of carers.

Good luck


#9 Emily Thorne

Posted 08 February 2012 - 12:15 PM

I agree with T2Mum - it sounds awful for you, your child and the carers.  Plus the other kids are a carer short if one has to be dedicated to your daughter all day.

I'd give it a few more weeks and perhaps try again in 6 months or so.

FWIW I've always found the more days they do, the better they settle.  Mine have started with 1 day, either to ease in or because it's all that I could get and it just hasn't worked.  They didn't cry all day - just miserable at drop off and as they got tired in the afternoon.  They both now do 3 days and it's fine.

It sounds awful for you and for her.

#10 josh2003

Posted 08 February 2012 - 12:27 PM

DS1 was really easy to drop off at daycare.  He too started at one, and I think the only time he went through a period of not wanting to go was when he was about 3, and it lasted for 2 weeks, and then he was fine.  But he was a really easy baby who seemed to understand things from a very early age (it helped that he could talk in sentences at 1).  So, we would just tell him in advance that he was going to daycare that day.

He's now nearly 9, and he's exactly the same... he could stay at his cousins for 4 days without even thinking to call us!

DS2 (2.5) on the other hand has been a super clingy baby, and like your daughter, is very skeptical about anyone that he doesn't see on a daily basis, including his grand parents.

When he started at childcare, he was attending on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  He wailed and wailed for the first few days and they would call me to come and pick him up.  So after a couple of weeks of him not really improving, the childcare owner suggested putting him in full time for two weeks.  So we did, and it worked wonders!  Over those two weeks, he formed a good bond with his carer, and even though wouldn't exactly be happy to let go of me when I dropped him off, he was happy to go and give his carer a cuddle and wave goodbye.

We still have the problem when he changes rooms and has to change carers, but once he gets comfortable with them, he's okay.  He's just changed rooms again, and he doesn't seem to like his new carer much at all, but his old carer will go in and get him settled because she understands that he needs one on one time initially while he "warms up", so she will sit him somewhere and quietly read to him until he's ready to face the other kids.

I still feel guilty, and as I work from home, I often think that maybe I should just keep him home and try and work around him.  But then I think that because he is so clingy that I would probably only make him worse if I kept him at home with me.  If anything, he needs to know that he can trust others and that I will always return to pick him up.  And I only persist with sending him because when I pick him up, I like to spy on him to see if he is really happy, and he truly is.  I see him playing with the other kids, and hear him giggling, so I figure that even though he doesn't like the drop off, he actually enjoys his time there.

But I do think that the less days they do, the harder it is to settle, so maybe you should consider putting her in for a few days in a row so that she can adjust quicker.

#11 chelle13

Posted 08 February 2012 - 07:43 PM

My son started family day care at 12 months.  He did not adjust well.  He cried all day and we had him there 2 days a week. We sought assistance from the co-ordinator and worked on different strategies with the carer.  It was amazing how much pressure our carer was under to try and get him to adjust, and for me the amount of pressure I recieved from other parents who said that I just needed to let him "adjust" made me constantly question my gutt instinct that he was not ready for this.  
After 3 weeks with no improvement (in fact things were worse - he would start crying as soon as he saw us in work clothes and would be hysterical by the time we reached the centre) I spoke candidly with the carer about my son.  She agreed that in 15 years of caring she had never seen a child this distressed by being in care and that she felt that he wasn't ready for group care.  It was very emotional for her to admit this as she felt like she had failed as a carer.  Personally I think it's terrible that we have this expectation that all children will adjust to care - and yet in the same breath we say "all children are different".  My son was not ready for group care at 12 months old.  We wound up working out hours between my husband and family to have him cared for by parents and at 18 months we engaged a Nanny.  He is now almost 2 and has started at centre care - he cries when I drop him off but he is fine 15 minutes later.  That's adjusting - not having a child that cries all day for 3 weeks, I am just annoyed that I waited 3 weeks to confirm what I knew.

#12 Kylie Orr

Posted 09 February 2012 - 08:53 AM

Now when i leave, he bangs on the windows
Oh that's so tough, you poor thing! Hard to know if it is just the initial adjustment period which is normal for most, or if it really is something that needs to be further considered and other options engaged, isn't it?

Just on the sneaking out issue - I have always said goodbye to my children before leaving but after sitting with her for 30 minutes on the first day, where she was playing happily, the carer suggested we "disappear" while she was still happy. I hesitated but figured the carer was experienced and took her advice. What I should have decided is that I am also experienced and know my child, and leaving her without saying goodbye was not the best advice. Ultimately I think there's no easy or right was to leave a child who doesn't want to be left but I ensure I wave her goodbye now so she doesn't turn around and see me gone without knowing.

chelle13 - that's really upsetting for you and your son but I'm glad you found a solution and that he is now settled a year later.

I still feel guilty, and as I work from home, I often think that maybe I should just keep him home and try and work around him.

This is me too. Although I cannot be productive with a one year old around - I've tried it in the past and it just doesn't work.
Plus the other kids are a carer short if one has to be dedicated to your daughter all day.

I'm aware of this too and don't want to put extra pressure on the staff but they are all confident she will settle in eventually. I've been going there for 7 years, so I'm sure they'll tell me if they think she needs to be older or is taking up too much of their resources. I won't persist if she continues to cry all day. If she makes progress by just being upset at drop off, then we will see how we go....

#13 froggy1

Posted 09 February 2012 - 01:54 PM

This article brought tears to my eyes, and I'm sorry to say, this is exactly why I stopped using childcare. The centres are great, but they do  NOT suit all children. Both my kids are clingy, loving, shy little dots. This is why we got a nanny. We are poor but happy. Both girls settled into kinder perfectly at 3 because they were ready.

#14 josh2003

Posted 09 February 2012 - 03:26 PM

QUOTE (Kylie Orr @ 09/02/2012, 09:53 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
This is me too. Although I cannot be productive with a one year old around - I've tried it in the past and it just doesn't work.

It's also not really safe.  I find that I get so distracted by my work that I'm scared he's going to get hurt, so on that front, he's better off being at daycare.  

#15 2FairyGirls

Posted 10 February 2012 - 04:43 AM

Chelle13- your ds sounds like my son,  except I persevered at a ldc for 4 weeks until the director sat me down and kicked her out with no warning. It was awful awful.  Like you I kept being told every child eventually settles.  I had never heard of a child not settling (and neither had the carers!) crying at drop off and then settling is "adjusting". Crying all day, distressed to the point of scratching their skin and screaming is not going to settle any time soon.  I still have massive guilt about not identifying this after the first week.  (she was attending 3 days in a row too). The whole this was so distressing that I never used a center again until preschool age.  Zero problems at preschool.  I hire a nanny prior to that for work. So I work for Ti pay my nanny! But eventually the investment will pay off!! I think how rich I will be when my kids are all at school !!! original.gif

Kylie: good luck.  Try again but if the behavior repeats I wouldnt hesitate in waiting until your baby is at least 2 before trying again.

#16 Magenta Ambrosia

Posted 10 February 2012 - 10:39 AM

Family Day Care is great for kids under 2 as it feels more like a friend or relative looking after them.
I am about to send DD2 (19 mth old) into a centre once a week due to a clash in times with her FDC and work, I hope she adjusts well - so hard to tell at this stage. DD1 is almost 4 and loves being around all the extra kids in a centre.
Different ages and different kids cope differently with each situation. I just wish we could get CCB and CCR with a nanny as it would then be a more ideal situation for me.

#17 EBeditor

Posted 10 February 2012 - 10:47 AM

My daughter settled in very easily at 7 months as it was before separation anxiety kicked in. DS at 11 months was much harder. It also depends on the personality of the child.

My tips are to take them at similar times each day, be happy and positive and don't show your own anxiety. I always take DD over to a carer who will distract her with an activity or just give a cuddle.

Don't linger too long, give a big smile goodbye and then return at a similar time each afternoon.

#18 clinkers

Posted 11 February 2012 - 03:39 AM

DS1 began crying at daycare around the age of 2, not crying all day, just at drop offs for about 15 mintues.  He had been attending child care since he was 9 months.  By the time he was 3.5 we gave up, it wasn't getting better.  We withdrew him at 3.5 years of age.

I was lucky to get a job at a school that had a kinder attached.  He was happy there, knowing that I was only a short distance away and the hours were shorter.

DS2 has never become upset at child care.  DH drops him off and I collect him.  DH says that by 8.30am he is picking up his bag and asking to go to child care.

There was a long easing-in process, which I started a month before I had to go back to work.

We did this with both children.

Edited by clinkers, 11 February 2012 - 03:47 AM.

#19 clinkers

Posted 11 February 2012 - 03:41 AM

I just wish we could get CCB and CCR with a nanny as it would then be a more ideal situation for me.


I have a friend who would happily share a Nanny with me.  Do the kinder runs etc?  How much easier and less stressful would life be?  No work days off due to illness etc...

#20 claireaust100

Posted 18 February 2012 - 07:37 AM


Edited by claireaust100, 18 February 2012 - 07:43 AM.

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