4 Year Old Cries for Mom When Dad Picks up from Daycare

Updated on October 24, 2013
A.S. asks from Huntingdon Valley, PA
12 answers

I am a single Dad with split custody of my daughter. I have every other weekend and every Wednesday and Thursday night during the week. The divorce was amicable and me and the mother get along fine. However, just a couple weeks ago, my daughter breaks down and cries for her mom every time i pick her up from daycare. Previously she would sprint to me and jump in my arms when i picked her up. Once i am able to get her calmed down (could take an hour), she is back to having her normal fun with me and having a great time. But i just don't understand why she freaks out when i pick her up now? Any help?????

Also please note...me and my daughter's mom have been separated since she was one, so she knows no other way than living in two homes.

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answers from Washington DC on

Have mom and daycare workers remind her at drop off and throughout the day, when she is in a happy mood, that Dad is coming to pick up today. Maybe she is expecting mom and dad shows up. Maybe she just needs her 4 yr old mind prepared for a different evening than she expected.

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answers from St. Louis on

been doing childcare for years now....I call it the "5 o'clock meltdown". :)

It's common, & will pass quickly if you work as a team. On these days, make sure your daughter has a photo of you. Ask the teacher to post it near her....or by her coat/backpack....(work with how the room is set up).
Using this as a visual reminder, with the teacher verbalizing how the day will go, should help.

If your daughter's behavior continues, then you'll need to explore a bit more. One of your comments really jumped out at me...the fact that it can take an hour to calm her. Not good. You shouldn't have to/need to work it so hard. I highly recommend watching the "1-2-3 Magic" video. It will teach you how to be In Charge! Good Luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

She may be doing the same thing to your ex. She may also not like living in 2 homes, 2 places. She may just want to be at home. That's pretty normal for kids going through a divorce.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I just read a great article about this and would be happy to PM it to you.
In short, this is really about your daughter's routine and expectations and just a phase of being a growing, developing little person. I know it is hard, but do try not to take it personally. Stuff like this happens even in families where both parents stay married. I've been on the receiving end of "I want Daddy" from my 6 year old for a few months, now. Dad can do no wrong and I'm chopped liver, right? :) Just a phase. I'll PM you the article, too, as there is no link to it.

PS-- Four is a prime age for this sort of thing, just so you know.

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answers from Chicago on

Welcome to parenting, haha, you have been one for several years, but well, they want you they want mom, they want grandma, they want the dog. Just be calm, tell her time to go and that's it. Do not feel guilty. You haven't approached the teen years yet.



answers from New York on

Try some "vulture food." My MIL used to make sure she had a snack for her boys when she picked them up from school. They would descend on it like vultures on carrion, and were afterwards much more pleasant.

At four, she might be able to discern daddy's turn from mommy's turn, and get her head around it. If you can set her expectations, it can gain her cooperation.

Good luck to you and yours,
F. B.



answers from Santa Barbara on

I'm not even divorced and my daughter has done this. I usually take her and one time my husband took her and then I picked her up. She really wanted my husband to get her and was crying and making a big deal. Another time we forgot her backpack (not that there is any purpose for it other than to feel like she is going to school). She was freaking out about it. So it threw off her routine.

Children can be tired from preschool and act out.



answers from Washington DC on

She may not even know herself. I would be upbeat and remind her what you're going to do and that she'll see Mommy in x days or hours. Be matter of fact. You can also ask your ex or the teachers if your child has been acting differently at drop off. My DD will go through phases where she wants to go in by herself or wants me to walk her to class and she always wants a kissing hand (there's a book - google it).

You might also consider doing something different if she is crying for an hour. Maybe give her some quiet time or transition into a book or a cartoon at home. You will probably find that she will need this time to mentally transition for years to come. Even now I can tell if my sks are with or have been with their mom or are planning to go to her home. It is different than if the go to school or to a friend's house.

You might also try talking to her when she is calm. My SD used to cry randomly and DH finally got her to admit she missed her mom. Well, that's understandable! But she said she also missed DH when she was with her mom. Understandable, too! I think she was afraid to say it and needed to know we weren't mad and just wanted to help.

Hang in there.



answers from San Francisco on

Divorce is traumatic to children. This trauma is expressed in many ways.

Your daughter loves you. You are her only dad. Continue to be amicable with your ex and don't take anything your daughter does personally.

This is part of the fallout from the break-up of your daughter's family. Just keep being the best dad you can be.


answers from Lansing on

Is the divorce relatively new? If so, perhaps its all just sinking in for her?

Maybe you could pick out a stuffed animal with her at a store together and keep it in the car and tell her its a special stuffed animal that will greet her after school on the days you pick her up. Just be sure to tell her when picking it out that its going to be her daddy pick up buddy, so she knows the purpose of it. Then carry it with you when you pick her up? --- I haven't tried this before, but just thinking maybe this would work.

Wanted to add, I did use this to get my girls to sleep in separate beds. I gave them each an old stuffed animal of mine and told them to keep very good care of it because it was one of my favorites. I even had them return them to me in the morning. It worked like a charm. Eventually...we didn't even need them.

Oh and I bought them each a stuffed animal after we had to get rid of our family pet.



answers from Anchorage on

I have noticed with my boys, about the time they turned 4, they really became Daddy's boys and want to be with him all the time. Sometimes for girls around this age the same can happen in opposite (they are all about mom). It is more then likely a phase she will grow out of, you just have to be patient with her and don't take it personal, she still loves you just as much as she ever did!



answers from Springfield on

This might just be discharge from the day, more related to the transition from school-to-home than to you. Maybe it's really about school and she's not able to articulate it when she's tired. Or maybe she's in a growth spurt and too hungry to manage when you pick her up. Perhaps the teachers could offer her a little snack right before pick-up time.

Continue to be kind and patient, and listen to her. In a calm moment wonder aloud why she cries at pick-up, and ask her for ideas about how you can help her. She might surprise you!

Good luck.