Strategies to help your child adjust to a child care setting

You are trying to get your child dressed in the morning and he is screaming that he doesn’t want to go to school. He refuses to put on his shoes, doesn’t brush his teeth and succeeds in making the two of you late for the third time this week. You finally get him strapped into his car seat, hand him a juice box and banana and drive out of the driveway. All is quiet until you turn onto the street where his childcare is located. He starts crying again and says he doesn’t want to go to childcare, he doesn’t like his teacher and everyone is mean to him. When you park the car and try to get him out of the carseat, he is flailing about. You end up carrying him, kicking and screaming, into the childcare. You hand him over to his teacher who holds him while you kiss him and then run out to your car.

Is this a typical scene for you and your preschooler? You are not alone. For some children and parents this is just normal anxiety but for others it is a signal that something needs to change. How is a parent to know? How can a parent do the right thing when it’s so hard to know what the right thing is? When the parent starts asking around for advice it often varies from one extreme to the other. One friend will claim the child is probably being abused at the childcare. Someone else will say to stick with it and the child will learn to deal with childcare. Another will say that children don’t belong in childcare and parents should stay home with them. All this does is leave the parent feeling guilty and confused. It does not solve any problems.

Talk to your child

So, what do you do when your child hates going to childcare? The first thing is to talk to everyone involved. Ask your child why he hates it. Write down and address each issue. Some are minor and some may be bigger issues. Often, a child just doesn’t like to get up and get dressed in the mornings. He may need to go to bed a little earlier or maybe sleep in his clothes so he can sleep a little later. Maybe he needs to get up earlier so he has time to watch a cartoon and eat some breakfast before leaving the house. One thing that helps is to put up a calendar and show him school days and stay-home days. Everyone likes it when Friday rolls around. Maybe your child does not like a particular time of the day at the childcare center (naptime, for example). You cannot figure out what is going on until you talk to your child.

Talk to the teacher 

The next person you should talk to is your child’s teacher. Schedule a time with her so that she can talk directly to you about your child without interference from the children or other parents. Ask the teacher what she has noticed and tell her your concerns. Is he having trouble during the day or only at drop-off and pick-up time? How is he relating to the other children? Does he get into trouble at school? This conversation should alert you to the attitude of the classroom. It should also bond you and the teacher together to be on the same page. If your child is only having trouble at drop-off and pick-up time, there are steps you can take to remedy this. The teacher will probably have some good suggestions. If there is trouble during your child’s day, you can discuss these matters with the teacher at this time. You will need to gage for yourself if the trouble is warranted. Your child may be getting into trouble during the day and that is why he doesn’t like the childcare. In some preschool classrooms children are allowed to roam and in others they are required to sit down and be still during the day. Your child’s preschool classroom and teacher should match his personality and the values you wish to relate.

If you are uncomfortable in any way with the care your child is receiving you need to explore this immediately. If your childcare is a center, you should talk to the director about your concerns. There are times when a child’s cries are warranted and there is no way to find out exactly what goes on during the day when you are at work. You have to trust the teacher, director and your gut instinct to make the best choice for childcare.

There are various childcare environments, from small home childcare up to large corporate childcare. Not one type of care fits every child the same. Some children thrive in environments where there is a lot of people and a lot of action while other children do better in smaller, quieter environments. You know your child’s temperament better than anyone, you will know if this is the best place for him to spend his preschool years. Trusting your instincts and building up communication will get you through this time.