The Daycare Blues

by Ann Douglas

You've just started your two-year-old in a new childcare arrangement. You're thrilled with his new childcare provider, but he doesn't want anything to do with her. He protests loudly when it's time for you to say goodbye and you drive to work feeling miserable about the entire situation.

While there's no miracle cure for the daycare blues that many children experience when starting a new childcare arrangement, there is plenty you can do to make the transition as stress-free as possible for your child. Here are a few tips.

  • Send along your child's favorite stuffed animal. Your child may find it easier to settle into a particular childcare program if he's got a stuffed animal or other favorite toy to hold on to when he's feeling anxious or upset.
  • Arrive at daycare at least 15 minutes ahead of time so that you can help your child to settle into an activity before you have to head off to work. He'll be less likely to protest your departure if he's having fun at the arts and crafts table or measuring sand in the sandbox.
  • Pay attention to your own body language when you're saying goodbye to your child. If you're feeling uncertain about the new childcare arrangement, you could be conveying some of your own ambivalence and anxiety to your child.
  • Resist the temptation to sneak out the door when your child isn't looking. You'll simply create more problems for yourself and your child. He may become fearful that you're going to disappear again and be unwilling to let you out of his sight for a minute -- even when the two of you are at home.
  • See if your child reacts just as strongly if your partner or a trusted friend drops him off instead. It could be that he's protesting your departure more than the fact that you're leaving him in a particular childcare environment.
  • Ask your child's caregiver if she can provide any insights into what the problem may be. Maybe he doesn't like one of the other children in his group or he is having difficulty settling down for his afternoon nap.
  • Avoid making other changes to your child's routine at the same time that he's settling into a new childcare setting. This isn't a good time to try to move him from his crib into a bed or to start toilet training him, for example.
  • Accept the fact that it takes time for young children to settle into a new childcare setting, and that some children take longer to adjust to their new surroundings than others.
  • Be alert to the possibility that there could be an underlying problem. If your child hasn't settled into his arrangement after a couple of weeks, the program may simply be a poor choice for your child. (This doesn't necessarily mean that there's out-and-out abuse occurring: the problem could be something as simple as a personality conflict between your child and his caregiver.)

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site,

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to republish granted to