How to Leave Your Child at Daycare When He’s Crying

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Returning to work and leaving your child in the care of relative strangers for the majority of the day is a very difficult situation for any parent to deal with, but it’s one that’s made dramatically more painful when the child in question is hysterically clinging to you. Instinctively, you want to protect your child and eliminate the source of his pain; something you can’t easily do when you must report to work. Managing an emotional meltdown and dealing with the resultant guilt is by no means easy, but there are some steps you can take to minimize both your child’s anxiety and your own remorse.

  • Stay Calm and Positive – Keeping your cool and maintaining an optimistic, upbeat attitude when you’re leaving a crying child behind is no mean feat, but it’s a necessary part of soothing him. If you exhibit signs of anxiety, reluctance to leave or misgivings about the wisdom of leaving your child in daycare, he will almost always pick up on these feelings and be influenced by them himself. Even if you need to have a moment to yourself in the car before heading off to work, make sure that you don’t show your child that you’re conflicted.
  • Let Staff Members Help to Soothe Him – As a parent, your first instinct is to care for your child and soothe his anxiety yourself. However, he needs to learn that it’s okay for other caring adults to attend to his needs while he’s away from you. Allowing a member of the daycare staff to assist you and make the effort to calm your little one down alongside you is an effective way of both sharing the burden with a trained professional and sending your child the message that he’s in good hands.
  • Don’t Rush Your Goodbye, But Don’t Linger – Rushing out the door immediately to avoid an emotional scene will only leave your child feeling bewildered on top of his anxiety, but lingering too long only prolongs the separation process. Almost invariably, a crying child will calm down and show interest in activities soon after his parents leave. The longer you stick around before leaving, the longer he may cry and feel scared.
  • Don’t Take Him Home – It’s tempting to call in sick and take a particularly upset child back home for the day, but it’s not the best idea in the long run. Capitulating to his demands will only send him the message that crying and tantrums are an effective way of achieving his short-term goals. Reinforcing the idea that crying will help him get what he wants will only make him reliant upon such behavior, rather than helping him to outgrow it.
  • Resist the Temptation to Sneak Away – Waiting until your child is distracted by the teacher, a toy or an activity to sneak out the door will eliminate emotional scenes, but it will also leave him feeling abandoned and confused about your departure. Make sure that you let your child know that you’re leaving, make a point of telling him goodbye and engaging in any parting rituals that you may have established.
  • Assure Him That You’ll Be Back for Him – For young children, the idea that a departing parent is never going to return seems like a very real threat. To prevent your child from feeling that you’re leaving him at daycare forever, be sure that you tell him what time you’ll be returning for him and attach it to an event that he understands. Statements like, “I’ll be back at five o’clock, just after your story time,” will make it easier for him to connect your return with part of his routine.
  • Try to Interest Him in an Activity – A child that’s engaged in an activity will be more calm about a parent’s departure than one who’s standing in the corner of a large room by himself. Before you leave, encourage your child to engage in a specific activity so that he’s less affected by your leaving.
  • Be Patient – When your child is miserable each and every day, it can seem like you’re fighting a losing battle. Keep in mind that your child will adjust to his new routine before you know it, and that soon he’ll be bounding out of the car in anticipation of the day’s events.

While almost all children will suffer from some sort of separation anxiety when they’re thrust into a new situation, the vast majority adjust fairly quickly. If your child isn’t showing any signs of growing accustomed to his new routine, it may be time to discuss the matter with his pediatrician.


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One Response to “How to Leave Your Child at Daycare When He’s Crying”

  1. Collin Says:

    December 4th, 2012 at 8:58 am

    I agree that managing an emotional meltdown and dealing with the resultant guilt is by no means easy. Thanks for sharing this best tips! A lot of parents will help this.

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