35 answers

Having a Hard Time Leaving Screaming Child at Daycare - HELP!!

I have just joined the local fitness center which offers a daycare. My 20 month old daughter is freaking out when I leave her and they have to coem and get me after 10-15 minute when she doesn't settle down b/c that is their policy. This has happened a few times but mostly I haven't even gone b/c I am not sure how to handle this situation.
I just doesn't seem right walking away from your child when she is screaming for you. What should I do?

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Thanks everyone for your responses. I got lots of good ideas and advice.

Featured Answers

My son is also 20 months old and does the same thing at the Y when I take him. He used to be good, but suddenly started freaking out. My Dr. said at around 18 to 20 months, they get separation anxiety really bad.

So I've started taking him into the child care area, playing toys with him for a minute, try to get him to play with another kid or get really interested in a particular toy. He has gotten a little bit better. He still cries some, but he didn't throw the huge screaming red-faced fit the last time we took him.

Supposedly they get over this phase after a few months. My friend's 2 year old is finally through it. I hope he gets over it soon.

:)
K.

J.,

I could personally never leave a screaming child. Could someone you know go with you to the gym and watch her for you? Could you work out at home and try again when she is older?

B.

Hi J.!
Have you tried staying with her in the daycare until she settles down? That seems to help with my son (1 year old) when he doesn't want to stay at daycare.
Hope that helps!
N.

More Answers

I am the parent of a very independent 14 month old that I have thankfully not experienced this problem with (yet) However, I worked in daycare for a couple of years and when this type of situation came up the parents tried staying in the room with the child and getting him or her involved in an activity in a group with the other children until he/she was comfortable with the surroundings instead of dropping and dashing as some recommened. Also, it seemed to help once the child was familiar with other kids in the class. This may not be possible since you may be visiting the fitness center at different times but if you could find another Mom with a child the same age to workout with perhaps your child and hers would become friends too and feel more comfortable being with his / her new friend without you while you work out :D

J.,
You may not want to hear this, but your child maybe too young to be left at an unfamilar place.
Children do not like change and at her age I feel
she just isn't ready. Do you have any babysitters that she is used to? Maybe your husband/family could help watch her for a little while when you go to the fitness center. Not meaning to sound harse at all, but I have learned from experience that sometimes a child REALLY is trying to tell us something. Go with your gut feeling on this and it will all be ok.

Hi J.,
My daughter who is 28 months was pulling this stunt too. I truely believe she was feeling insecure when I drop her off at the church nursery. But I have made headway. What I ended up doing was sitting in at the nursery for about 2 months. Mind you my activity occurs once a week. Working out at the gym could potentially occur more than once a week. Once my daughter felt safe she began to play and then she didn't care where I was. So my thought side bar working out at the gym for a week or so and go to the gym to play in the nursery. Once she feels safe your set.

I am a mother to two girls ages 2 and 31/2. Leaving them anywhere makes me me terrible but I make sure to always tell them that I will be back and that I will bring them something when I do. Even if it is just a cup from a meal or as small as a juice or soda from the machine. Then they look forwad to my leaving and what they will get when I return for being big girls. I have been where you are and it not easy but it will subside with a little time. Be patient with them and just remind them that you need play time alone same as they do. If you are like me and military wife- it makes it harder if your spouse is deployed like mine. They are already having seperation issues from that and then they think I am leaving... so it is hard but it gets easier over time. They will find playmates and look forward to playtime without you, leaving you with some "you" time after all.

J.,

I could personally never leave a screaming child. Could someone you know go with you to the gym and watch her for you? Could you work out at home and try again when she is older?

B.

My son went through a phase like that and I put together a photo album in water/tear proof book. This way he could look at the pictures and at least see us.
At church we tell our daughter that she has to go to her class and we will go to ours- it seems to help that she knows we are not just leaving her and we will return. Hope this helps!!

J.

One time I was leaving my grandchildren at daycare and was going to "sneak out" when they weren't looking. The daycare provider said to me, No, you don't ever want to do that. You need to be up front with them that you are leaving and that you are coming back. My suggestion would be to leave your daughter for a couple minutes, then go back (so she knows you are coming back), then leave for a little while longer, etc. Maybe when she sees the pattern that you leave, say you are coming back and then do come back, she'll eventually be able to better accept your absence.

T.

DO NOT LEAVE HER THERE ANYMORE!!!! THERE IS A REASON THAT SHE IS SCREAMING AND CRYING!!! CHILDREN SENSE WHEN THINGS ARE NOT RIGHT AND APPARENTLY SOMETHING IS WRONG THERE! IT IS VERY NORMAL FOR A CHILD TO BE UNHAPPY THE FIRST FEW TIMES WHEN MOMMY LEAVES THEM, BUT IF IT CONTINUES, THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG. I RUN A IN HOME CHILD CARE AND WHEN I START WATCHING A NEW CHILD, THEY USUALLY CRY FOR JUST A COUPLE OF MINUTES AFTER BEING DROPPED OFF AND IT ONLY LAST A COUPLE OF DAYS. THEY KNOW WHEN THEY ARE TRULY LOVED AND LIKED!!

I totally am feeling for you right now. My 5 year old has been like that since birth also. She would be fine with Gma or gpa, but not at a facility. Daycare all day was terrible for she and I. Eventually, she did adjust to it to some degree, where she didn't cry ALL day, but we had discovered she had an anxiety disorder called selective mutism. I am sure your child's circumstances are different, but certainly they both have anxiety about being left in another's care that they do not know.

My initial steps at daycares were to skip the reason I was there for the first few times. So it is time that you and your daughter go play (only) at the daycare. Don't even try to sneak off, then she won't trust you. Make sure she is making friends, and watching you play or read to others...then she will want to do it also. Then after a time or 2, you can say something like you need to go to the daycare did she want to play for a bit while you had to do something that doesn't sounds too fun, and she might think of it as a bit more rewarding than the place that watches her while you do what you have to do. Good luck!

You need to build a relationship with the child care workers or at least one of them. Try to find one childcare worker at the gym who is willing to work with you. Explain to her/him that you really want to try to make this work but don't want to wear the caregivers out either. Continue to follow the policy but try to find ways of getting back out to the gym. As a former preschool teacher, the biggest problem I observed was mothers/fathers who were anxious themselves about leaving a child. Do not linger when you leave her in childcare, just GO and work out. Chances are, you're only going to have 10-15 min. to workout until she gets the hang of it anyway. It doesn't help that within 10-15 min. you have to return, your baby has learned that trick all ready. Hopefully you will build a relationship with one of the workers and you both can figure it out together. Good luck and don't give up YOUR workout time. You aren't abandoning your baby and you aren't being selfish.

I have two sons, 10 and 12. And I remember that look on their faces when I brought them to daycare for the first time. I remember how they cried and begged me not to leave them. I think I cried after I was out of sight. It was alot harder with my first one then it was my second. He would cry everytime I would drop him off and finally my grandma said that I had to give him some reassurrance I was coming back. So the next day when I dropped him off. We had a talk in the car before we got out and I told him how big he was and that I needed a big favor from him. I asked him if he was a big enough boy to do this favor for me. And of course he thought he was a big boy, and he was around 2 years old. So I showed him a card with a picture of me and him taped on one side and a key taped on the other side then I placed it in the envelope. Then I told him the key in the envelope is our house key and would he hold it for me and that I would be right back, I just had to run a very important errand. I told him if you miss me then just look at the picture and then look at the key and know I am coming back. You might even try walking your child around the fitness center and show them there are no kids there and how far the room you are going to be in is from the one they are in is. It just takes time, especially if they are an only child. If its really bad you might have to see if there is someone you know that has kids that is willing to help you by letting you drop your child off for about 30 minutes to get used to you leaving and realizing you will come back if you do leave. Good luck, I know its hard and an emotional sight to see them like that but they will grow out of it sooner or later.

Hi, I know how hard that can be. I am a mom of a 2yr old. I am also an early childhood teacher. She may not feel safe at the center. It also may be because, she is not use to being without you. Since you are at home with her all day, she isn't quite sure what to do when you are not there. I would try staying at the center with her a few times. Talk to her about what she can do there while you are doing mommy things. Show her where you will be while she is there. My son seems to understand the phrase " be right back". He seems to know that when I say that to him, he knows that I am coming back. When I tell him "Mommy will be right back?" He nods yes and is content to wait for me to return. I always phrase it as a question to make sure that he is ok with it. The difference in my situation is that I am a working mom, and my son has gone to a babysitter since he was 6 weeks old. He is used to me going away and coming back for him. Try playing with her there and see if she can find any playmates at the center. If she has a security item, binky, blanket or stuffed animal, make sure that she has it with her. Another trick that I have done with an older child, 3 yrs, is to have a picture of you or of the family there with her. Let her carry it around or have it there so that she can look at it whenever she needs reasurance. Hope something works for you. You need some time to yourself too.

Your daughter is very young and at an age where seperation anxiety can peak. You would NEED a solution if this was daycare for you to go to work, etc but this is the gym. Try exercising with her instead, taking long walks, etc or having hubby watch her. Give her some time, at this age even a month can make a difference. But by forcing her now she is losing out, maybe losing out on trust, on comfort, whatever but she is losing out. How long do you stay with her before you leave? Do you sneak out or say goodbye? First I would make sure I am staying with her to give her time to get used to the people and surroundings then I would never sneak out I would say goodbye and make sure she knows you are leaving but will be back. Try to engage her in an acitivity she finds enjoyable before you leave so she has reason to want to stay. You just have to try try again but I would certainly start with a break as the screaming and you leaving her with strangers in a strange place and not coming back while she cries for you for 15-20 mins has given her a bad impression of the place now and without a break it will possibly be much harder to overcome.

I am the mother of 3, and even with one of my children having severe stranger, social and seperation anxieties I have managed to in 10 years never leave a child screaming anywhere and yet they all managed to go to Kindergarten OK so I know it is doable. It does get easier, they do get older and have more permanance and memory, more trust for you that when you say you will return and they will be OK they trust that. Well and then there is always older siblings, subsequent children even end up being easier at times b/c you can always leave a sibling with them lol. But it does get easier, they are small for such a short time, I know you hear this soooooo much but it is so true, if anything you can look at the percentages, I mean a year is less than 1/60 of their or your life, it is such a short time, why battle through it

Are there any other children in the daycare when she is there?
And is she around other children that often?
It may help if she is in a playgroup or something like that so that she can get used to being around other kids and playing and interacting....
My daughter is 23 months (will be 2 the 2nd of Sept) and does that a lot too, sometimes even when I leave her with her father. It may be best to try leaving her with your husband or a babysitter at your house first, so that she can get used to the idea of being away from you...Then she may go more willingly into the daycare.
Good Luck!

Oh wow do I know how you feel!! My husband and I just relocated due to job cutbacks where we were and he has just gone back to work and I'm still looking for something 2 months after the fact. My daughter goes balistic sometimes when I walk off or leave her with my mother or when we go to church and I leave her in the nursery. However, as my mother says, and I thank God for her everyday, just get going, she will be fine. And she is. She stops crying in about 10 minutes and then is glad to see me when I get back and hugs me to death, which of couse makes me feel great. So keep leaving. It will get better!!

J.,

Try taking some of her own toys to play with while you work out..Not sure if the gym will let you do that..Does she try to play with the other children? Since you stay at home, there should be a place near you, like a center, where she can get use to playing which is similar to the facility at the gym.

I had the same problem with my son. What I did was try to go at the same times and days...so the daycare workers would be the same... and then I spent the 1st few times only in the day care with him. I was there encouraging him to play but letting the daycare workers handle everything else. He warmed up to them real quick.
Good Luck!
K. D.

Hi, I have a daughter 3 years & 4 months, and a son 2 years old. I put my daughter in pre-school, 2 days a week, because she kept asking to go to school. She didn't realize that I wasn't going to stay with her. Which turned into crying and clinging everytime I left her. The first 3 weeks were the worst, but they assured me that after I was gone, she calmed down. It has helped her tremendously, to get some social skills, and not be afraid of groups of kids. Now she loves it and doesn't cry when I leave her. My advice, try waiting until she's a little older, (I put my daughter in just after her 3rd birthday) and can understand that you ARE coming back for her. Try to keep telling her that you will be back, and when she sees that you do come back every time, it will get easier. Just keep in mind that the first 2 weeks will be tough to get through, but it will get easier.

Hello J....

I think I can relate to what you're going through right now....
My daughter was also around 20-22 months old when I first tried to take some time away from her. The first time I put her in daycare (drop-in childcare), I was also called back after 15-20 minutes because they couldn't calm her down...
Then the next few visits, she also cried and screamed when I was leaving (totally breaking my heart of course and making me feel like the worth mother on this planet!!!)..However I still left her and was told that she had calmed down after a little while.
It actually took quite a while (over a few months) before she was OK and understood that I was coming back for her.

This was just over a year ago...You should see her now! She just started in a new daycare (3 days a week) and she is doing so great! She loves it!

Looking back, I now see that my own "anxiety" played a big part in her crying....Amazing how they pick up on everything we feel!

Then I also had to learn to let go and stop feeling guilty for taking some "me time". I would talk to my daughter on the way to daycare...telling her I was going to do a few things by myself, and would be back very soon for her...and that of couse , I loved her very much..

After a while, my daughter stopped crying. Then someone nicely pointed out to me that she had been very good at playing with my 'mommy guilt'. Indeed!

How many times have you tried to leave her in daycare? 10-15 minutes isn't a long time (i know you probably think I am kidding right!!) for a child to settle down. I thought a minimum of 20 minutes was the 'norm' but I could be wrong!
Do you, like I used to, feel some guilt, putting your daughter in daycare to have some free time?

Anyway I hope these few lines will help you and give you some hope! It definitely takes some practise for both the mom and the child!

Good luck!

P.

Hi J., I am a mother of 3 children. I have had the same problems, only with regular daycare. Is there a favorite toy that your child can take to make him/her feel comfortable with the surrounding. The other option is to stay there for a few minutes and walk him around and introduce your child to another child possibly the same age who may share the same interest as him/her. Wait until your child is secure with the surroundings, and then slowly walk towards the door. Make sure your child is occupied before leaving. Once he has found an interest in something, then walk towards the door. I have always found, out of sight out of mind always seem to work. Hope this advice helps. Let me know how it goes.

A.
"Precious Moments Daycare"

Hi J.,
I totally understand what you're going through. I was a stay at homer, until my daughter was a little over 2 years old, and I went to work. The first two weeks dropping her off at daycare was miserable. She screamed and cried and asked the girls when her mommy was coming (they told me this, and I actually walked in one evening to see my little girl saying "when's mommy coming?" and it broke my heart. The good news: it's normal. After two-two and a half weeks, my daughter was in love with the girl who cared for her and did not cry for me again. When the daycare closed after a few months,I had to change daycares and I went through the same thing for almost two weeks, now she never cries. This is normal, and it's good for your child to realize you are coming back-in your case, after only an hour or so! Keep going through the same thing and see if it clears up. Unfortunately, their policy stinks, because now your daughter is learning that her crying will get you back. I don't think sneaking out is a good idea either. I just always told my daughter goodbye and I'll be back in a little while. That way, she wasn't surprised or shocked when she looked for me and I was no longer there. Hang in there, though. This is perfectly normal, and despite what others say, you are entitled and you NEED a couple hours to "do your own thing" each day.

I think every single child does this, and unfortunately it is a faze. Honestly, the daycare at the gym would do her good to let her stay it would only take a few times of crying, each time would be shorter and shorter, and eventually she would learn that you do come back even when you leave her. That is what we had to do, was leave our child in the nursery at church and she cried for about 30 minutes, but then the next time it wasn't so bad, and this only lasted for about 2 months, and then she was much better. Good luck with being able to work out.

Hi J.,

I don't know about your gym but mine has peak times when the whole childcare area is full with screaming overwhelmed kids. I don't go Mondays at all and the other days I go 11:30 when moms are starting to leave with their kids for lunch or in the afternoon. Also I figured out that my 20 months old does better when they take the kids outside for some playtime on the playground.

After a horrible start at the gym I gave it a weeks rest and than I started to follow through with this plan: in the beginning (the first 2 weeks) I took him to the gym every day (even if he didn't last for more than 10 minutes) and I also left him at friends and neighbors houses just for 10-15 minutes and went outside for a walk so he could get used to similar situations. It payed off for us and except for a rare bad mood he will do fine at the childcare.

By the way, with my 5 year old I have never had any problems even when he was little so this came as a surprise to me. But this YOU time is so important that you shouldn't give up. Good luck, N.

Hi,
I don't know if you are referring to MAFC, but if you are, I like the ladies who are there in the morning. They seem sweeter and more caring than the ones in the afternoon. Also, if you have a friend who goes with a child the same age maybe you could take them together so your child has a familiar face there. Ask the ladies when it is slower so there are not too many kids running around, that might scare your child, and the daycare workers can pay more attention to your child if there are not tons of kids there. Hope some of these suggestions help. I know how important some time to yourself can be!

Hey J....I know exactly what you're talking about. When my oldest son was around that age he would do the same thing. I'm a member there too and I thought it was going to be so cool so i can get in shape and my son is right there too and they would have to come and get me after about 20 minutes too..they kept telling me to just keep trying and he would eventually get used to it. But, i hated leaving there. The workers at that time were not very calming and comforting. It seemed like it was a just a job to them then, this was about 4 1/2 years ago. NE way, good luck and I don't really have any advice for you except go with your heart. If you don't want to put him there, try going when someone you know can watch him and then try again in a month or so. I had too many bad experiences with the workers there, that i just opted out of taking my kids with me (i have 3 now). It just seemed that they weren't really interested in the kids, ya know? oh well, maybe it's changed since then. Good luck! I just had to freeze my account b/c I haven't been able to go in so long b/c i hate asking other people to watch the kids while i go work out, plus the water park is fixing to close. Well, good luck and hang in there! If this post wasn't helpful at all, sorry...i probably mumbled a bunch too, sorry again LOL have a great weekend! I think we both live in monroe & i think we're both talking about the same gym...i have a 6 yr old & boy/girl twins that just turned 3..i've been a member there since it opened about a decade ago...time sure flies! back then, i wasn't even a mom and could work out all day if i wanted, i sure miss those days, but wouldn't trade the ones God has given me now with my beautiful kids. k, i'm done mumbling...talk to ya later...

My son is also 20 months old and does the same thing at the Y when I take him. He used to be good, but suddenly started freaking out. My Dr. said at around 18 to 20 months, they get separation anxiety really bad.

So I've started taking him into the child care area, playing toys with him for a minute, try to get him to play with another kid or get really interested in a particular toy. He has gotten a little bit better. He still cries some, but he didn't throw the huge screaming red-faced fit the last time we took him.

Supposedly they get over this phase after a few months. My friend's 2 year old is finally through it. I hope he gets over it soon.

:)
K.

I am a stay at home mom of four children, ages 6, 4, 2 1/2, and 4 months. It has been my experience with all three of my older children that they will cry when you leave them especially around that age. What worked for me was just being consistent. If she is only with you most of the time it is difficult because she is not familiar with the people and the environment. But if you gently reassure her that the you will be back, quickly give her a kiss and leave, she will eventually adapt. Maybe go to the gym every day for one week. Find out if you can sit with her for a few moments to get her familiar with the toys and the people. Maybe distract her. Even if she sees you leave and begins to cry, continue to walk out. Eventually if you are consistent she will become confident of the fact that she is safe, you will return, and really it IS FUN! I have found that allowing my children to stay, even when they scream, eventually they adjusted. But children can also sense with you if you are uncertain. Be confident in the people you are leaving her with, reassure yourself that she is safe and will enjoy playing with children her age and with some new toys! Letting go a little at a time is very healthy for you and your daughter. I hope this was helpful.

Your daughter is at prime separation anxiety age and are adding in a new environment which can be scary to a young child in itself. She is scared that when you leave her that you are not coming back. Try staying with her a few times and just playing together if they will let you so she can get used to the classroom and the caregivers. Once she feels comfortable, try excusing yourself for just a few minutes to use the bathroom, and then the next time (or even a little while later the same day) try excusing yourself and stay away a little while longer. Each time stay away longer......maybe do this 5 times for example (may take a few more trys depending on her level of anxiety). Your daughter will learn that you are coming back for her and will not be scared any more. She may still cry when you leave, but should start to calm down within a few minutes. I used to stay right outside a few minutes where my daughter couldn't see me until I heard her calm down before I left so I felt better about the situation too.
Good Luck!!
K.

I feel for you, truly I do and I would bet that there are trillions of moms out there who do. I am a working mom and my son has stayed with the same woman for all 3 of his years so he doesn't fuss but I have experienced it in other situations. the only thing I can tell you is to stick it out and keep going, eventually she will stop and you will be so happy. I know it doesn't seem right to walk away from a screaming child but it's also not right for you not to have time for yourself. pre-school and kindergarten will be starting soon and you will be so glad that you did this now.

My son did the same thing. The best thing for you to do is keep trying to leave your child with the sitter at the gym. The more your child see's this person and place the more your child will be comfortable.

Unfortunately your child is being perfectly normal. At 20 months old she is still very much in her stranger anxiety and her separation anxiety stage. This is somewhat compounded by the fact that you are her sole primary care giver, with you being a stay at home mom. Your dogs probably would do this also if you left them for the 1st time and they didn't understand. My suggestion that I have tried with my kids is to perhaps allow your daughter some time to get to know the care providers at the daycare. You can start with doing this for 10-15 minutes a couple of days with you there and then the two of you leave together. After a few days of this you can do it for a little longer 20-30 minutes and then again leave together. After this time, especially if you do this in close succession of each other, she will start to get used to the caregivers there. Then when you feel brave enough prepare to leave her. Go and get her settled, doing something with the caregiver that she knows and then leave after about 5-10 minutes. She will cry, but keep going and don't look back. Stay away for about 20-30 minutes and then return. Do this for several days and then take her and leave after dropping her off and making sure she is comfortable and leave, don't look back. If she is very stuborn, it may take her a little longer for her to get over you leaving her, but this to will come to pass. As she is more comfortable then you can exercise longer and leave her longer. Initially the day care may need to be a little flexable with you there as well as allowing her to cry for a little longer than 10-15 minutes. Good luck.

It is perfectly ok to leave them while they are screaming. They eventually learn that you do come back. If you hang out there, then you will never get to work out. It is heart wrenching but it works.

It sounds like this is a very new situation for her since you are a stay at home mom. She just hasn't learned how much fun socialization can be. Try staying with her for a while. Go in and plan not to work out until she is comfortable with the person providing care and the other children. It may take a few times but if the person providing the care is good with children, it should take no time at all before your daughter will be waving you off. Especially if she understands where you are going to be and how close you are.

My daughter did the same thing when I joined the YMCA. The good news is that each time I left her the situation was less of an ordeal and now she goes right to the ladies in the baby room with no tears at all.

I know walking away when your child is screaming seems terrible, but I really think the time apart is good and healthy for you both.

Hi J.!
Have you tried staying with her in the daycare until she settles down? That seems to help with my son (1 year old) when he doesn't want to stay at daycare.
Hope that helps!
N.

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