When attending daycare is difficult

This situation is rather common in daycares. Toddlers sometimes have difficulty separating from their parents and may experience a lot of anxiety at that moment. For a sensitive parent, mornings become excruciatingly difficult emotionally. Guilt and the feeling of abandoning their child make them feel bad in addition to the shame of facing the look of the educators every morning while other parents seem to leave their children without a worry in the world. Here are a few tips to help these parents:

  • Do not take it personal! It is not you whom he doesn’t like but the fact of leaving his mother. If his reaction upsets you, he will be even more anxious!
  • When the child arrives, take some time to welcome him in a gentle and cheerful way. “Hello Anthony! How are you feeling this morning?” Forget his sulky response and add “hmm, you don’t really feel like leaving your mom this morning huh?”
  • Agree with the parent on a short morning ritual and help her apply it :Okay dear, give a kiss and a hug and say goodbye, it is time to play with your friends!”
  • With kindness, firmness and a smile, take your child with you and invite the parent to leave: “Have a nice day Mrs. Smith. You can go now, we will take care of your little man, and everything will be just fine!”
  • When the parent leaves, help change the child’s mind by playing a game that he likes. However, if he decides to cry, sulk or worry, it’s his choice. He should never receive any kind of compensation such as too much attention, too many hugs or a treat “Come here, I will give you some chocolate”.
  • If he cries intensely and wants to be in your arms, hold him for two to five minutes and then put him down and suggest a game. Let him cry some more while showing some empathy “Oh! You are very sad aren’t you?” Then hold him a bit more and after five to ten minutes, reassure him, and put him back down.
  • Place a visual sequence on the wall to represent the daily routine and help the child understand it “See? There we will have dinner, then, a nap, then we will play and after that, we will draw and then your mother will come back!”
  • If the child often expresses his boredom, quickly comfort him and invite him to do something that he can show his parents later: “What do you say we build a big tower with blocks? You can show it to your dad later, I think he will like it!”
  • For children who are uncomfortable in a group and need a bit of solitude, set up a quiet area, behind a bookcase for example, where he can play alone when he feels like it. Confined spaces are often comforting for anxious children, like a cocoon.
  • At first, don’t force the child to participate in activities with the group. Some children need to watch for a while before being comfortable enough to jump in. However, if the situation persists beyond three to four weeks, start insisting a little bit to integrate one or two children in his game while staying with him to reassure him. Value, without exaggeration, his attempts to be more independent and sociable.
  • Every day, tell the parents about their child’s progress. Avoid talking about his difficulties in front of him to avoid stressing him even more and worrying his parents.
  • Be patient! To adapt to a new environment, and anxious child may need two months.
Nancy Doyon
Family Coach

Nancy Doyon has been a family coach and special education teacher for nearly twenty years. She has worked in youth centers, childcare centers, CLSC and primary and secondary schools in the Quebec region. Trainer and lecturer for several years, she is also very active in the media as a Family columnist. She contributes regularly to Canal Vox’s Bonheur total, as well as on Rhythme FM and FM 93 in Quebec. Her NANCY SOS report is also presented each week on channel V’s show Famille 2.0. In addition to writing for, she regularly publishes articles about children’s education in La Culbute magazine and on her website Dimension éducative.  She is also cofounder of the company Dimension éducative, which offers family, academic and professional coaching. She also recently published her first book, Parent gros bon sens : mieux comprendre mon enfant pour mieux intervenir.

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