Is my child not cut out for daycare?
April 30, 2013 8:08 PM   Subscribe

We switched to a new daycare center a little less than a year ago and for at least the past six months, my daughter has been having a hard time.

Everything always seemed fine at the old center and had close relationships with the caregivers. However, we're now wondering if perhaps there were things they weren't telling us.

The daycare we're at now seems to be high quality. There are low ratios compared to other schools in the area, activities during the day, and the teachers are well-qualified. The director and teachers are concerned about my daughter and actively want to help. We're all just at a bit of a loss for what to do.

When we drop-in to visit, the other kids seem happy and well-adjusted. My daughter has her good moments but the teachers report that she gets really frustrated when other kids get in her space and will often go a long period of time (up to an hour) being very unhappy. She also has a hard time post-nap.

She has trouble calming down after getting very upset and occasionally will bite herself. The biting has never happened at home and really worries us.

She is usually pretty happy at home, with the exception of the bad nap wakeups. Since she's two, there are definitely frustrating moments, but for us and the occasional babysitters, she's generally a lot of fun. When she gets super upset, she has a lot of trouble communicating, which I think is contributing to the problem. We've tried to encourage her to talk when she is most upset.

She went through a terrible sleep spell as well but that has been a lot better for the past couple of months as well.

She seems to have close relationships with a number of her little friends so we are hesitant to pull her out. Plus, given that she doesn't seem to be responding that well to this environment, we are not sure what a good alternative is. We've thought about trying to find a nanny-share or finding a way to do a half day preschool program. Mostly, we just feel stuck and unclear about what to do next. If she was one, then I would be looking into home daycares, but it seems like she is approaching the age where she's a little too old for them. It also took her about two months to adjust to this environment so we'd hate to cause her even more stress by needlessly changing her environment. Most of all, we just want to make sure she's in good hands during the day. She's in daycare 30-35 hours a week now.

The strangest part is that she is excited to go to school in the morning and doesn't want to leave in the afternoon.

A few questions:
1) As an outsider, what would you do? Unfortunately, we can't afford to have either parent stay home and don't have any relatives nearby. We also have a very limited budget.
2) If you've dealt with something similar before, how did your child do long-term? Was daycare a scarring experience? What would you have done differently if you could have a do-over?
posted by anonymous to Education (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Given the information you present, it doesn't seem like the daycare is a problem. If your child is having problems waking up from naps, coping with frustration, or handling personal boundaries, those are issues she will have everywhere. Every daycare will have naps, frustrations, and other children for her to cope with.

The fact that the problem didn't manifest until after you moved to this daycare seems like a coincidence; one year old and two years old behave very differently no matter what.

If you are very concerned -- and it sounds like you are -- you should talk to your pediatrician about this on the off chance that there is a developmental problem you should address.
posted by Andrhia at 8:14 PM on April 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

As an outsider, it sounds like she enjoys daycare and her behaviour falls well within the mean for two year olds. I suspect the previous centre never shared these facts with you. If your daughter is enjoying daycare - as, sulks aside, it sounds like she does - I would agree with your gut and be hesitant to pull out. The socialisation and adaptation will come over time, and as her cognitive/behavioural toolset continues to develop, I would expect new patterns to emerge and coping skills to continue evolving beyond biting.

Two months isn't a huge amount of time in terms of daycare adjustments, imho.

You sound like good parents, and she sounds like a good kid; different kids even at that age can have radically different temperatments, I would stay up late worrying about it overmuch. The carers will let you know if they perceive there are some more serious problems, and they are in a great position to know. What your daughter is doing? They will have seen that a zillion times, I certainly have, in my time as a carer.
posted by smoke at 8:27 PM on April 30, 2013 [5 favorites]

Does the daycare have a little quiet space/fort/retreat area she can go to for some distance from the kids or to slowly recover from nap? Some children are more bothered by stimuli than others.
posted by xo at 9:07 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you've dealt with something similar before, how did your child do long-term? Was daycare a scarring experience?

FWIW, many moons ago my 2 year old could not adjust to daycare/pre-school at all. He was so miserable we had to pull him out midyear. The next year when he was 3 we tried again at a new place. Though I thought he'd be clingy, he marched right in (I remember he said over his shoulder as he was going alone into his brand new classroom, "Go have coffee with the other mommies."). I don't think you should worry at all about long term implications for a 2 year old, though I think it's up to you whether you have her stick it out. Just remember that two is still really little and not all kids are equally ready for a standardized schedule and being social with people all day without this implying some future issue.
posted by third rail at 9:31 PM on April 30, 2013

Who knows why some kids adapt to this daycare and not to that one. My son used to flip out whenever we took him to a highly regarded, well-run facility with an impeccable reputation. He never got used to it. He was hysterical every single day. He began screaming when we put him in the car in the morning, and after dropping him off we walked back to our car listening to the sound of his screams emanating from the classroom. Every. Single. Day. He was so traumatized that we had to pull him out. Next month we tried a new facility, and he was just fine. No problems whatsoever. Go figure.
posted by Crotalus at 10:47 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure why you would think 2 years old is tool old for an in-home daycare. I don't know if her current difficulties are sufficient motive to switch. The fact that she's still excited to go in the morning and doesn't want to leave in the afternoon to me is a sign that you should see if you can continue to work with the current daycare (who've said they want to help) on the problematic bits.

But if you do think she would do better in a smaller setting with fewer kids and fewer care providers, then I think in-home daycares might be worth exploring. I had my kids mostly in home daycares up through kindergarten, and it was a positive aspect of their early childhoods. The sorts of activities they did were similar to what they would do in a daycare center, and they weren't the only toddlers/preschoolers present. If you think about it, if you were able to stay home or find a nanny share, the situation wouldn't much different from a good in-home daycare setting.
posted by drlith at 3:01 AM on May 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Does the daycare have a little quiet space/fort/retreat area she can go to for some distance from the kids or to slowly recover from nap? Some children are more bothered by stimuli than others.

I agree with this. What is the pacing of the day like? Maybe the teachers are being just a little too over-zealous about keeping activities moving and this is stressing your daughter out?
posted by gjc at 4:18 AM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

How much does she interact with other children outside of daycare? If you can, spend more time with other parents and young children and help your daughter learn how to interact better.

Some kids just have a terrible time waking up from naps. One of mine always woke up hysterical, inconsolable. If we tried to comfort him he's throw himself out of our arms. He outgrew it.

Home daycare might work better for her, if you find the right place. Look for a provider whose values and education are similar to your own.
posted by mareli at 5:36 AM on May 1, 2013

When my daughter was two, she had trouble with kids getting in her space when she showed up at daycare and when she woke up from nap. It was a couple particular kids and for a while was so bad she didn't want to go to school (so she said, even though she also said she didn't want to leave), and would be sullen for quite some time. I would try to either get her to school early, so there were fewer kids There, or take her to the reading Area and help her settke in. After a few weeks, maybe two months, she moved to the next room, and things were better. A few months later those other kids followed, and for whatever reason there has been no issue.

Two year olds are hard. But I think what you describe is within normal. If she likes school otherwise, work with the teachers to figure out what can help - extra quiet time, or cuddles, or some kind of security object maybe?
posted by dpx.mfx at 6:47 AM on May 1, 2013

[This is a followup from the asker.]
Thank you for all the great answers! We feel so much better after hearing that other parents have run into this issue before and their children ended up being just fine.

To answer your questions, there is a small "quiet area" but it's not very separated from the class so kids aren't really isolated there. I'm going to investigate the pace of activities a bit more. I know that they have a lot of free play time but I'm not sure how those transitions to the next activity work.

In addition to talking to her teachers, we're also going to check out a Montessori school and a home daycare. Something I didn't mention before is that my daughter is somewhat shy and introverted. Her teachers have commented that she's "introverted" for about a year. She likes playing with friends but prefers to play on her own a lot of the time. I hate throwing a label on a two-year-old, but I'm pretty sure that she's not going to be a super gregarious kid. Friends have mentioned that Montessori may be a better fit for more introverted kids.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:24 AM on May 1, 2013

My first reaction to your question was "She must be an introvert". I'm one, and the idea of all day in the presence of lots of other people making noises is exhausting to me as an adult! I would think of ways to ensure she gets to be in a quiet area where she can just play by herself for a good portion of the time. I'm glad to hear that you are investigating home day care and Montessori for her. I found Montessori to be an excellent fit for myself as a child. She is lucky to have parents who are willing to try to discover and honor her temperament.
posted by Jandoe at 11:15 PM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

At two, I thought my daughter was introverted too, because she often seemed to be playing on her own, away from the other kids.

At almost four, she's anything but introverted. She runs the class she is in now.

Just as a data point.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:10 PM on May 7, 2013

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