Dr Richard C. Woolfson
You hoped that your little darling would thrive at the childcare centre, make lots of friends and thoroughly enjoy herself. Yet, it has been two months since she enrolled and she still cries when you leave her in the morning. Ask yourself these questions:
WAS SHE LIKE THIS BEFORE?
If she has never been very sociable with others her own age (for instance, she is usually withdrawn when she attends a party), then her behaviour probably has nothing to do with the childcare centre. She might simply be shy by nature. But if she is normally outgoing, vivacious and friendly, then she is probably troubled by something. Try to find out what that could be.
DO YOU TALK TO HER ABOUT HER DAY?
Your tot’s language skills are still developing but, even so, she can communicate some feelings. So ask her about her likes and dislikes, the other children and her teachers. Although she may not be able to tell you exactly what upsets her there, you might get some ideas from your discussion. And anyway, your interest and attention will make her feel good about herself.
HAS SHE BEEN SEPARATED FROM YOU BEFORE?
A two-year-old who has been cared for by, say, a helper or a babysitter while you and your spouse are at work is more likely to cope better at the centre, as compared to a child who has no experience of temporary separation from her parents. If this is her first break from you, perhaps she needs a bit more time to adjust. It might also help if she spends time with someone else on weekends (for instance, with Grandma and Grandpa).
DO YOU SOUND UPBEAT?
If you have a positive attitude about childcare, she will eventually become more enthusiastic. Tell her about all the wonderful activities she will take part in at the centre while you’re on the way there. Make the separation from you brief, give her a reassuring hug and then leave. When you pick her up, don’t focus on her distress – instead, ask her about what she enjoyed and whom she played with.
WHAT HAVE THE TEACHERS DONE TO INCLUDE HER?
Some children need more coaxing than others to mix with their peers. Her teachers should make a regular and persistent effort to include her in group activities. They might also allocate some of the friendliest children to play with her every day.
IS THERE ANYTHING AT HOME THAT COULD CAUSE HER ANXIETY?
A child who worries about her family may be reluctant to leave home, just in case something bad happens while she is away (for example, if you and your spouse had a fight in front of her, or if she has a very ill relative to whom she is very close). If you think that could be a factor, give her lots of reassurance that everything will be fine and she has no need to worry.