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When your child doesn't want to go home after daycare

Michelle Ehrich is a working mother of two boys. While working, she found and kept two high-quality and loving caregivers for her children. When Ehrich realized that many other people she know were having difficulty with their own childc...

No, mommy!

When your little one's not happy to be picked up after daycare, truly, nobody is happy. Here are some tips -- for both caregivers and parents -- to make the end-of-day transition a little easier for your child (and for you).

Sad little girl

Your question

I am a nanny of a two-and-a-half year old, and I have been caring for him since the age of four weeks. Just in the last few weeks, we have been having trouble with transition. He does not want to stay at my house and he fights going home. What I mean by fighting is he actually will tell his mom, "I don't want you. I want you to go back to work."

We have explained to him that I am his babysitter and he comes to my house when Mom is at work. When Mom is done, she will pick him up. It is very heartbreaking for his mom. We have always given him ample warning that Mom is coming. About 40 minutes prior to her coming we have quiet time so that it is easier to leave a quiet activity versus an active one. Do you have any suggestions/ideas as to why he is doing this?

The childcare expert answers

While having a nanny as caring and concerned as you might be every working mother's dream, having your two-year-old child tell you he doesn't want you is every working mother's nightmare.

>> Mother's guilt: When you want to return to work

Bear in mind that many children go through separation issues at different points in their childhoods. It's entirely possible that this little boy is simply struggling with transition in general, separation issues or that he just doesn't like being uprooted twice a day.

However, I'd want to know more about what else has been going on in this little boy's life.

Some questions to consider:

  1. Before his mother brings him to you, is there much trouble getting him ready and out of her house?
  2. Are you aware of some change in his world, such as a pregnancy or new baby (either for his parents or you), stress in his parents' marriage, financial problems, health concerns or a change in schedule?
  3. Is he being (or resisting being) toilet trained?
  4. Do you and the boy's parents have similar expectations of him and are your approaches to dealing with misbehavior, toilet training, eating habits and the like consistent?
  5. Is his speech and motor development otherwise on an age appropriate schedule?

Young children are often very sensitive to change and emotional tension. His behavior may be a reflection of something troubling him, and his "fighting" you might be his only way of telling you that he's uncomfortable with whatever it is. If you discover that he doesn't understand why Mommy is angry all the time, or why you let him eat on the sofa while Daddy is much stricter, talk with him.

Help him to know that Mommy's and Daddy's troubles are theirs alone, he is not at fault for anything, and that you and his parents all want what's best for him. If your childrearing techniques are at odds with his parents', his resistance to these transitions may reflect confusion about whose rules are the "real" rules. Make sure he truly believes that everyone still loves him very much and will always take good care of him.

>> How to make daycare dropoffs easier

Generally speaking, children who have trouble with transitions can be helped. Many get over it on their own, especially when their adults treat them respectfully and lovingly, and let it run its course. Your idea of keeping the activities simple and calm before he goes home is good. You might want to try to develop a predictable routine. Maybe you can go for a walk shortly before he's going to be going home, so that he is already in his going-home clothes. Maybe he can help you pack up the diaper bag. Perhaps he'd like to listen to music or read the same book every day while waiting for Mommy to pick him up.

Maintain as much predictability as you can, keep activities enjoyable, low key and repetitious, and pay attention to what's happening in his life.

>> Should I start a home daycare?

If you build in a few more soothing end-of-the-day routines and yet he continues to fight you or his mother during those transitions for more than a few weeks, you might want to seek some professional help. You all deserve to be able to have your comings and goings be less stressful.


More childcare tips & advice

4 tips for a happy babysitter

Top 10 tips on hiring a babysitter

How to make daycare dropoffs easier

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