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How to Help a Child to Settle Down in Daycare

by Erica Loop

It is nerve-wracking -- but not unusual -- for young children to cry when parents leave them with a sitter or drop them at daycare. As infants develop a sense of object permanence -- or the realization that something or someone still exists even though it isn't in their sight -- they may begin to show signs of separation anxiety, says Kids Health. If your little one is struggling to separate when you drop her off at daycare, there are some strategies that you can use to help your child settle down.

Choose the least stressful time possible to start or change your child's daycare experience. When starting a new daycare, avoid dropping your young child off at the school or center when she is tired, sick or hungry. Take her in the morning after she is well-rested, at a time that doesn't conflict with her regular nap. Feed your child her normal breakfast meal before dropping her off to head off a hungry-related cranky start.

Take small amounts of time away from your child, leaving her with a babysitter or family member before she starts daycare. Children who have never been away from Mommy or Daddy may struggle with separation anxiety more than a child who is regularly in someone else's care. On the first day of daycare, remind her that this is just like the time when you went to the grocery store and she stayed with the babysitter.

Keep calm. Trying to get your child to settle down while you are crying won't work. While you might feel like sobbing, hold back your tears and keep a calm smile on your face to put your little one at ease. She may settle down sooner if she knows that you feel comfortable and confident.

Adopt a "settling down" routine that stays the same every morning. For example, walk your child into her daycare classroom, give her a kiss on both cheeks, hug her, wave good-bye and walk out in the same way every day. If she still resists your leaving, try a slightly more complex or relaxing routine. Ask the teacher if it is acceptable for you to stay and read a storybook to your child or draw a picture with her before you head out the door.

Give your child a lovey or favorite object to hold onto when you leave. Make it personal, giving her something that represents you, such as your scarf. Tell your child that you will come back to get her and the item in the afternoon.

Distract your child with a fun-filled activity or other kids. Have her teacher take her to the science area to play with a magnifying glass or the block center to build with the other children. Engaging the child in play will help her to settle in and redirect her attention elsewhere.

Tip

  • Talk to the teacher about your ideas on helping your child to settle down. Make sure that you are both on-board with the strategies that your plan on using.

Warning

  • Don't simply try to sneak away. Kids Health suggests that, while this may seem like an easy answer, it may actually result in your child developing even more anxiety.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images