Coping with a Toddler in Daycare Transition

One thing I’ve learned being a parent is that it is incredibly hard to not step in and help your children every time they are confronted with a difficult situation. As parents it is our natural instinct to want to protect our babies, to keep them from harm, confusion, fear, disappointment, heartache… the list goes on. We want to wrap them in cotton wool and cover them in bubble wrap. Did the phrase “helicopter parent” just enter your mind? 

I watched our 3 year-old during her first few weeks at her new daycare, and it broke my heart to see her in tears every time I left. To be told when I picked her up in the afternoons that she had spent half the day hanging by the fence looking for her baby sister. To see her playing by herself, avoiding the other children, barely speaking two words. I wanted to take her home and cuddle her. Where was my loud, vivacious, charismatic little girl who loved talking to people? Who was this quiet, shy child I was being told about each afternoon? I wanted to fix the situation. I wanted to make her play with the other kids. I wanted her to have friends, and to enjoy being at daycare. A small part of it was about me, also wanted to justify my decision to be at work, with the knowledge that she was having a great time with her friends. But she didn’t have friends. And it made me sad.

It was a huge shock to me that she had struggled to transition. I had not noticed this anxious side to my daughter. But here it was. It reminded me of my own insecurities. Walking into a room of people knowing no one, expecting to network with them. Talk business with them. It’s tough! It’s scary. It’s hard. And again, it broke my heart to think of her feeling the way I would.

What can you do when a toddler is distressed with transitioning into a new daycare? There were days I would be in tears after driving away because she was so upset. I would ring my own Mum. I told my husband I wanted to take her out of daycare. We would find another solution. But he’s the harder one in situations like this. He manages to keep his emotions in check. He assured me she would be fine. My Mum assured me she would be fine. Everyone told me it just takes time.

And then one day she was invited to a birthday party. And all of a sudden she was excited to be around the kids at daycare. She sat at the table and ate with the other children, she played with them and was happy to hand over a birthday present to the birthday girl. It couldn’t have come at a better time, and it was just what I needed to see. She had friends.

A few weeks later it was her own birthday. So we took a cake to daycare and they made a big fuss of her for the day. From that day on, she told me she had friends at daycare. I sighed with relief.

There are still a few tears in the morning occasionally, but she’s always happy to see her teachers, and by the end of the day she’s rattling on about how much fun she had with all her friends. I get warm fuzzies when we walk into daycare and she sees another child and she greets them with a smile. There’s my happy wee girl. The one who is loving and friendly to everyone. The one who will help the smallest of bugs out the door, who will point out how lovely my hair looks, or how beautiful her friend’s dress is. The one who always makes sure she gives us a hug and a kiss. Who will sit with her baby sister in her cot to stop her from crying. She’s made it through the transition.

I know this is just the beginning, and there will be countless situations to come where my heart is aching for my children. But as much as I want to protect them and shelter them from all possibilities, I know it’s important for them to develop coping mechanisms on their own. I believe in allowing them to find their own way with guidance as opposed to forceful placement. But it’s hard. Really hard.

I guess this is all part of parenting and loving your children with everything you have x

RELATED: Being an optimist with insecurities

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4 thoughts on “Coping with a Toddler in Daycare Transition

  1. Oh, that feeling is sooo horrible!!! I don’t think the knowledge of everything turning out fine helps that much when you see your children in distress… don’t we just love them so dearly?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It most definitely is! And I think you’re right, when you’re amongst it all I don’t think it makes things easier either. It is nice to be through on the other side though xx

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  2. This is so beautifully written. I felt this way with our third child so I can relate so much to this. After having two older kids that waved happily at me as I left I was a little unprepared to go through the crying and begging me not to go. It’s heartbreaking at the time. But you are so right they do settle and the learn so much through the process and become so much more confident.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! It was definitely the shock that it wasn’t going to be a breeze like I thought that caught me off guard. I imagine life as a parent is full of these moments as they grow older and we watch them learn and grow in new situations. Xx

      Liked by 1 person

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