Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Daycare Switcheroo

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One month before P-Nut was born we learned that our beloved daycare Little C attended since he was 12 weeks old, would be closing their doors. What were we going to do?!?! Little C LOVED his daycare and so did we. We had become very comfortable with the facility, the teachers, the directors, etc. Our son would talk non-stop about his friends at school and each day he would light up when we walked into his class room.

We searched around and soon found a new center right by our house that fit everything we were looking for. It was within our budget and it was independently owned (not a corporate chain like our last center). We put pen to paper and had Little C and his unborn sister enrolled. Woot!

At the time C was 21 months old and with the addition of his new baby sis and a daycare switch on top of it, he had a hard time comprehending it all. Mom is staying home with the baby but you can't stay with her. You loved playing with your friends at "old daycare" but you can no longer see them, along with your favorite teachers.

My husband had the rough job of dropping C off on his first day at the new location. It was brutal. Screaming and crying, leaving him there was the hardest thing even for my tough-guy husband. Poor C  just didn't understand.

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These brutal drop-offs lasted for a solid MONTH with no improvement. We felt like we were torturing our son and it was breaking our hearts. We were assured that the crying stopped soon after we left and that he did fine all day but we started noticing some new behaviors that we were concerned about.

His tantrums were out of control at home in the evenings. Each night felt like a battle royale with a moody, fussy, cranky, stubborn toddler. But the worst for me and what broke my heart was learning our out-going, playful little fella was only playing by himself all day and not interacting or playing with the other kiddos. This was completely the opposite of his behavior at "old daycare."

Since this new center was so close to where we lived I would often times drive by when I knew they'd be playing outside and seeing him off to the side in his own little world while the other kids played together and were having fun, was so hard to see.

Now let me address a couple of things here. First, I did start to wonder if this was our little guy's personality as he got older and being more independent was possibly just his thing. But the fact that it seemed so drastically different from the toddler we knew leading up to this experience had me feeling that he was not happy at the new center.

Second, some of you may be asking, "if you were home on maternity leave why didn't you just keep Little C at home with you?" We had to pay tuition to reserve our kids' spots at the center and since we were ponying up the dough we felt we should have him getting acclimated as soon as possible. Plus, having a newborn and a 21 month old at home was honestly overwhelming for me and having him go to daycare was a welcome option. I don't feel guilty for that, it just is what it is.

So back to the situation at hand. C was miserable, or so it seemed that way, and we were wanting desperately to make him feel better about his new location. Here is what we did:

  1. We would talk up daycare all. the. time. - Even as the poor dude was screaming on the changing table in the morning that he didn't want to go to school we would always talk about it in a happy, upbeat voice and mention how much fun it was going to be. At the dinner table we would talk about how cool it was that he got to go to school and before bed we'd talk about it some more.
  2. We learned all the kids names in his class on the first day - Being able to say the kids name when we'd talk about school was really helpful for him to associate who these new friends were. We'd ask if he saw so-and-so at school and if they played together. When we'd drop him off we'd say, "oh look, so-and-so is playing with a truck. Do you want to play with her?"
  3. As hard as it was, quickly leaving C while he was crying at drop-off was the best thing to do - Having Mommy and Daddy stick around only makes the crying worse. Your toddler wants you to rescue them or to coddle them and of course that's what we wanted to. But honestly as soon as we'd leave the teachers had a chance to calm him down in their way and he needed to get used to them. It was hard but it made sense.
  4. We talked with the teachers a lot about C's behavior - Having an open dialogue with your children's teachers/caregivers is extremely important in my opinion. We expressed to them what we were noticing at home and asked if they could keep an eye on specific things for us. Again, they always assured us he was doing fine and that this was normal for most kids his age that switch schools.
  5. We let him take a "buddy" to school with him - This was a suggestion one of the directors gave
    us and it really made a difference! We told C he could take his stuffed lion, Simba, to school with him and that Simba would be his buddy and play with him all day. The director said it would provide him comfort and it honestly did. He was able to take Simba outside, nap with him and we believe he provided a feeling of security and a piece of home.
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It took two and a half months before C truly became 100% comfortable at his new school. He now plays with all of the other kids and will talk about his buddies and his teachers at home. Drop-offs are a cinch and I have to beg him to give me a hug because he's ready to jump right in and start playing. He gives his teachers big hugs when he sees them and we recently ran into one of his buddies at the Zoo and you would have thought C won the lottery.

I was also worried that he would form a strong attachment with his stuffed buddy, Simba and we would not be able to send him to school without it. But luckily once he became comfortable he left Simba at home on his own one day and hasn't needed him since. Well, that's not entirely true... he actually took him to the doctor's office the other day when he wasn't feeling well so I'm guessing Simba is an on-call buddy! ;)

All in all this transition was tough on the three of us but it worked out and we tried our best to do it on C's terms. We never pushed him we only tried to make him comfortable. After the first month passed we did start to wonder if maybe he was telling us in his own way that he didn't like where he was going. Since we didn't see any improvement we started doubting our choice of location and wondered how much longer we should put him through this before we searched out a new daycare. 

I'm glad we stuck it out because as we've all settled in we are really loving where he goes. And now Baby P-Nut is there and we couldn't be happier with their infant room. 

At the end of the day I just wanted my son to be happy and seeing him struggle was tough. I know as he grows we will be faced with more of these tough changes and transitions and I'm confident that we will all get through them and learn from them. Besides, I don't think he's too scarred...

If you have a toddler making a daycare/school switch I hope you have a smooth transition but if you don't, I hope maybe I provided some helpful tips and if you ever need to chat with another working mom with daycare babies, I'm always happy to help! Solidarity, sista! It gets us through.

Have you had to change daycare locations with a toddler? How did your transition go? Any helpful tips you can share?


  1. Hi Kendra! New to your blog. Drew is actually at his 3rd daycare, but it's our forever-home. He was in one until he was 13 months, and then I put him on the list for our current while and transferred him to another while we were waiting for just over a year. He moved to our current one when he was like 18 months so just a few years younger than C. It didn't take him quite as long, but it was an adjustment. I think you did everything exactly right and time was the only thing that would help. I'm glad he's happy now!!

    1. Thanks, Sarah! And WELCOME! ;) You are right about time, it does heal. I think it may have taken so long because of the new sister at home and our usual routines were temporarily out of whack. I'm so glad you found your "forever-home" for Drew! It brings such piece of mind when you love where you send your kids.

  2. So hard when they can't tell you WHY something may be troubling them--so you're like, are you crying because you're having a normal tough time or is it something specific and worse? Munch is generally happy at his school, but some mornings he cries and cries at drop-off. I think it's just one of those things. I just look at it as, hey, some mornings I wish I could sit at my desk and cry and scream NOOOO!!!

  3. There is absolutely nothing worse then leaving your child while they are crying. Awful. Sounds like you did everything perfect and didn't jump the gun on any decisions (which is always so hard), but let C adjust a little! Well done!

  4. It's already tough to deal with those drop offs but the change in C's personality was just heartbreaking! I'm so happy that you were able to get some good advice on how to deal with it and get him back to being a happy toddler. Great job! :)

    1. Thank you! Yes, it was heartbreaking but at least it was a phase. Happy toddlers = Happy Mamas! ;)