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My son is almost 2 years old and has started daycare just a few days ago. When he arrives (actually today was even worse, when he was in the car he knew we were on our way there and began crying) at the daycare he starts having a fit unlike I have ever seen in a child.

He screams and cries like crazy and it is so hard for me to leave him. The school has a week of adaptation but I don't see how this behavior will change in a week and I am not sure I can do this for weeks or even months while I watch him suffer every day. Could it be that some children are not ready for daycare?

My daughter was totally different as she wanted to go so she never cried but my son is a bit dubious of new people so it is hard for him. He seems to calm down after a while after being left so that is a positive sign but I just don't want to force something upon him that may not be right for him now.

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I was in the same situation a few months ago; my almost 3-year old and 14-month old started daycare after being home with my wife their entire lives. The 3-year old adapted very quickly, within a week. The younger one took a lot longer to adapt, and still cries a little when getting dropped off, even after a couple months. Each child will adapt at his/her own pace, but recognize that this is a big change for your son. Until now, he has been with you pretty much his entire life.

There are a few guidelines on making the transition easier. When you drop him off, tell him "goodbye", give him hugs and kisses, whatever your routine is. But do not sneak out of the room without going through your goodbye routine. Do not prolong your departure. Say your goodbyes and leave. Don't hang around outside the door watching him where he can see you. Daycare workers are fairly used to this, and will be able to calm him down once you've left. My youngest would cry her head off for 5 or 10 minutes after being dropped off, but then would calm down and start playing.

Try to find some positive aspect of daycare that your son enjoys - talk to the staff to see what he likes during the day. It could be a toy, could be a friend he sees there, it could be music day, whatever it is. When in the car you can focus on that aspect to get him more excited about going to daycare and being able to see / play with / whatever that fun thing.

Many daycares allow parents to come by during the day and see their kids. This might help, but it might start the tantrums all over when you leave again.

Talk to the daycare staff to determine how long after you leave he cries and throws a tantrum. Is it getting better? If he calms down pretty quickly after you leave, it's probably best not to come by during the day; if he's inconsolable the entire day, though, it might be worth trying a midday visit.

You might also ask the daycare if they have any recommendations on how to improve the transition. They see a lot of kids and likely know a few things that worked for some of them.

Most times going to daycare for the first time is much harder on the parent(s) than it is on the child(ren). Our last image of them when we drop them off is them kicking and screaming, but daycare has all kinds of new toys and people and things to do that the kids keep busy and active throughout the day.

  • I would stress the "keeping a routine" and "keeping the goodbye short." – user20343 Apr 25 '18 at 20:32
  • Thanks, this is very helpful. How do we as parents know then if the child is screaming and crying because the daycare is not nice to him or if the daycare is not a right fit for him or if it is just a question of time and adaptation? I am sure many parents worry about this. – armani Apr 26 '18 at 7:31
  • @armani give it a few weeks, even a couple months before knowing if the daycare is a good fit (unless something bad happens, of course). My son needed time to adapt, but it got better everyday. I knew his new daycare was a good fit for him because when I came back to get him at the end of the day, he was calm, happy and well rested. Which was not the case at his old daycare... – aneder Apr 26 '18 at 13:30
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The important thing to bear in mind with children is that all are different. Not just yours, your relatives and friends- around the globe, every child is different, unique. While your daughter or others may have adapted within a short space or cope with change well, that's not to say that all are the same in this respect.

Without going into a long, winding novella- understand that some children just plain don't like change- unlike adults, they aren't used to or even remotely capable of grasping at such an age the cognative function to process "I need to give this a chance"- they know what they lie and don't like-if they don't get it, well- you already know the response!

My son when he started daycare had been spoiled for attention and had myself and his mother around constantly for the first 9 months until she was back at work, then it was "taking turns" as we worked opposite shifts- but the point being, he was always used to the same faces, this is what he was used to. Remember, children aren't you and I, while it won't bother you in the slightest to go to a shopping center, supermarket or walk down a street and see other people, these little ones aren't, so it's a shock to their system as even if you have family around, these become familiar and let's face it, the world is far from identical from one day to the next.

The adaptation from having mostly her around was thankfully easy, he didn't mind at all. However when he started to go to daycare, this was a different matter. It took him about 3 months to finally get used to going and not have a good cry for about an hour every time. We started with a "toes first" approach of just one day a fortnight, then once a week which is all that we thankfully needed- but it still took those three months.

It's a special kind of feeling you get when you see your child upset, especially when you feel you're responsible. Thankfully, most daycares will have some advice or guidance you can take to make the change easier for the child to adapt- from a routine to follow down to getting them familiar before even attending by socialising with unfamiliar faces to get them used to seeing other people.

A lot of it comes down to you, though- some parents take the "bandaid" approach of getting their chil(ren) to daycare, giving them a kiss on the head and a goodby and leaving, while others will loiter for a time and let their child go off to do their own thing and leave then.

This is different for everyone and each child- daycare staff are all trained and used to different children, they know what they're doing and your child is safe with them, so calm yourself down, don't get anxious- let your child feel that this is all ok and normal.

Help them to feel more excited, find out how they've done during the day and what they've enjoyed doing- is it a particular activity? Playing with a particular other child or children? Perhaps a toy? Maybe even a particular staff member? Find something they like and use that as something to refer to so they get positive vibes as the prospect- rather than them seeing you get in a state because of "what's coming"- kids aren't stupid or soft, they do pick up on this.

Daycare is an important part of development as unless you've already been taking your child to any groups or activities with others to help socialize them, this may well be the first time they've had to face not just strangers, but other children, the concept of sharing, being away from you- it's a big thing, but they look to you for support, approval, safety....everything- if they see you upset, this isn't good.

Speak to the staff, possibly see if they'd mind you checking in at some point in the day if you feel it's necessary. Remember though it's all aiming to the end goal of them being used to and accepting that they'll be at daycare for a period of time, letting you do what you need to, whatever that may be. Dropping in frequently and making it a habit will make the transition worse, prologing the entire process.

Believe me when I say that this is an ongoing thing as there's still preschool, high school, university and them moving out, getting married...chances are you'll be the one that needs to do the adapting, not them, as it doesn't get much easier as they get older!

  • I enjoyed your post but I will say that I disagree that it doesn't get easier. When you can sit at a park and not have to run behind your little one, when they are not putting there life at risk all the time, when you don't have to change diapers, when they can dress themselves, make themselves a sandwich, bath themselves, even help you in the house for a change... well I don't see how the youngest years are not the hardest. I really believe it does get easier so don't ruin it for me haha :) – armani Apr 27 '18 at 11:26
  • There's a certain contentment that comes as they get older, be it when they read to themselves, can get their own breakfast or put themselves to bed- but the habit you get into of helping them do these things isn't always so easy. When their independence leaves you with less and less involved as they want to do things themselves, it takes some getting used to. With that said, it's apples and oranges- I for one celebrated not having to keep re-making the bed all the time! – FeralSquirrel Apr 30 '18 at 11:47

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