HELP! My Toddler Hates the Nursery!

Updated on July 18, 2008
A.P. asks from Birmingham, AL
38 answers

My son is 15 months old. He goes to a church day care (not the church we attend) and loves it. When we go to our church , we start towards the nursery and he starts to panic. The teachers in the nursery are so sweet, they always try to calm him down, but it is the same song and dance every Sunday: he stays and cries, then 20 minutes later, I get paged (we have those little restaraunt pagers) to come get him and he is inconsolable.

It is so upsetting because it almost makes us NOT want to go to church, or just one of us goes. Are there any suggestions?

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J.S.

answers from Oklahoma City on

I used to work in our churches nursery and we had this happen once. The mom actually decided to volunteer in the nursery for a couple weeks to stay with him. The dad would then go out to the service. After a few weeks of realizing Dad was only gone for about an hour he settled down and was fine.

The best reason we could think of was he suddenly thought Mom and Dad were going to leave him for the full day and was used to having them around on weekends.

That could be an option to try if you and the nursery staff are open to it.

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K.P.

answers from Huntsville on

I am one of our baby/toddler coordinators at our church of over 2000, and we see this a LOT. We even see your exact situation quite often where the little ones are fine with mother's morning out, babysitters, daycare, etc, but the nursery or class at church is a different story. Let me tell you from my professional experience that the best thing for him is for you to just keep doing what you're doing. If you know that the staff is good, then just take him and leave him, take him leave him, take him & leave him. After awhile (sometimes months...yes, I know) it'll get better and better because he'll know you're not going to just not leave him. Every week he misses going in there, is about 4 weeks back progress wise. We even have some children (with approval and conferencing from parents) that we'll leave in there regardless of the fit they pitch...never page the parents, and they are the ones that usually break through the process the fastest because they learn quickly (even the 9mth-1yr olds) that they're fits aren't going to get mommy back. About 4 1/2yrs ago, before I was a coordinator, I had a friend with a son my oldest son's age (about the same age as your son). He went through this same thing for SEVERAL months. Eventually, the teachers/nursery workers would break down and call mommy, and he knew that all he had to do was last about 10mins then go into break down mode to get his mom back. Eventually, his mom had enough, and I told her to just have them page me. So, when he'd break down, I'd get the page (we weren't close friends back then, so he didn't really know me well at that point), I'd go in there, and I'd sit with him and deal with him IN the room while he was having his little melt down, but we'd make him stay. The teachers could still do what they needed to do because I was in there to deal with him. Yes, he was a huge distraction, but only for about 5 or 6 more weeks (Sundays and Weds). It might seem like a lot, but he'd been going through his little routine for MONTHS. We've done this with several since, and it's worked.

So, if the nursery workers won't keep him in there, is there someone else that could answer the page and be in there with him? Or at least in the hall, that way you're not the one responded to his cries and letting him "win". If not, just keep doing what you're doing and give it time.

Also, you could try staying in there and leaving a little earlier each week and see if that works. Some churches don't let parents stay in the nursery, though so I don't know if that's an option for you.

It WILL pass, I promise. We're always consoling exhausted teary-eyed moms in your same situation, so it's definitely a normal thing. I went through it myself with 2 of mine and am starting to go through it with my little 9mth old princess who knows her Mommy's always on the hall working and hearing her cries. Actually, she was in one room a few weeks ago (her normal room), and one of the ladies said, "If you don't get off this hall you're just going to have to take her". So, I said, okay...What am I supposed to do? I CAN'T leave, I have to be there, I work there! So, I took her out of that room and put her in the next to oldest room because I knew they wouldn't mind dealing with her, and I was right. They got her to get her focus off the doors and windows and said to bring her in there every week, so if there's another nursery with other workers that might be willing to force him to stay in there, that would be good too.

Good Luck, and HANG IN THERE!!! The most important thing is consistency!

K.
SAHM of 4 (6,5,3, & 9mos)

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M.C.

answers from Tulsa on

A.,
I so feel for you! My children are 15 mos and 2.5 yrs and I know just how you feel. The first piece of advice I want to give you is pray about it. You know He can take care of anything. Secondly, find a nursery room that is willing to work with you. Give your toddler a security object to take but do not give in. If you get paged go in, calm your child down, and return to service. If your church nursery isn't willing to work with you on this maybe you should ask God if its where your church home should be. I read somewhere that as parents we have to teach our kids life is abour "we" and not "me" and it really is true. I will pray that God gives you strength and endurance through this. Just don't give up! God bless.

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L.R.

answers from Little Rock on

My eldest daughter had issues with the nursery initially as well. I did as one of the other mothers here suggested and stayed in the nursery for a couple of weeks (I got CD copies of sermon) and slowly started weening her off me being there (whole time to 45 min to 30/20min to 10 min then left her). By staying for a little while she got familiar with the surroundings and later loved going (now she knows all her special services and and you can't miss one - 4yrs now). Towards the end of the weening process he may still get initially upset and you may even need to sneak out but by the time you come and pick him up he should be having a ball. GOOD LUCK! At this age separation anxiety is typical, even if it is only at certain places. GOOD LUCK once again!

L.

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K.E.

answers from Little Rock on

A.,

I know from my own experience that it is difficult, but I encourage you not to give up! I encourage you to sit with him for the entire hour the first week to really check things out for yourself. Something in the room or another child may be scaring him. Then the next week stay for 45 minutes, leaving the last 15 minutes, so he will see that you are coming back soon and so on. I left my twins in the church nursery with one or the other screaming for what seemed like one million visits before they settled in, but it was one of the most difficult things I have done. I recommend the alternative, especially due to his age. Another suggestion is making sure that he has his blanket or another thing there to comfort him when you leave. Good luck!

K.

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N.T.

answers from Oklahoma City on

I come from the opposite point of view on church. My husband and I have discussed it several times about attending church and we come to the same conclusion that our youngest is too young yet. It isn't fair to the nursery to watch a wailing child and it isn't fair to us to spend our hour in the nursery with him instead of where we should be in the church.

Another reason is that we both work fulltime and both kids are in daycare 8 hours a day. We just can't justify to ourselves leaving them in nursery for another 2 hours while we go do something else. Our oldest can come with us, but the youngest wouldn't last more than 10 minutes before raising a fit to leave. We feel that staying home right now lets us spend the quality time with them that we miss during the week.

Once the youngest starts school and is old enough to sit with us, we will choose a church and start attending. I agree with the ideas of the posters about not letting him win and methods of dealing with it. I think the one about someone else responding to a page is good too, to show that someone will come just maybe not mama. I just don't feel right subjecting my kids to that stress right now.

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S.S.

answers from Lawton on

Have you tried bringing him into church with you? It's a lot more work during the service, but my daughter seams to do much better when she's with us with the added benefit that she's learning how to behave in a different social setting.

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S.R.

answers from Tulsa on

Something "bad" probably happened at the church nursery. He might have had a bad spill, a run in with another baby, been scolded or maybe it just smells bad to him. Something is obviously very bad for him, and you can't just leave him there to "get over it" but everytime you go get him, it reinforces the "bad" behavior. So you need a different game plan. It might help if you volunteer in the nursery for several weeks in a row. Play with all of the babies, not just your son. Have him "help" you. If they have a weekday school, ask the Administrator if you and your son can drop by during the week to play for a little while. Hopefully after several weeks of this the nursery will have only good memories. I know you want to go to church with your husband as it's a good time to have couple time without the baby to worry about. Hang in there. Everything is just a phase and will eventually end though some of them seem to last forever!
Good luck!

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T.P.

answers from Mobile on

I do not agree that there is something there that he is afraid of, especially if the room has consistent workers... If the workers rotate and are never the same twice, then that is a possibility but my son, from ages 14 months to 16 months, would cry excessively when we dropped him at the nursery. His workers were always the same and when I say excessive, I mean for TWO STRAIGHT HOURS. He would snub all the way home and I would be mad that the ladies did not page me. They kept telling me he would adjust, which brought me to standing in the hall for long stretches of time wanting to snatch him out of there. But, persistance did pay off and now, at 18 months, he cries momentarily when dropped off and when parents start to pick-up. Aside from that, he is happy as a lark. The trick we found was making sure he had a security object with him... and, broke my heart but, letting him cry. Hang in there!

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T.R.

answers from Mobile on

I am a children's minister. We have this same problem come up from time to time. We work very hard with the parents and the children to make this a more special, safe, fun place for them. I don't know your nursery policies, but we allow the parents to go in and sit and play with their child. It may be something that you need to build on. We also work very hard at having at least one of the people in the room be the same one each week. That helps seeing the same face. Each week we try to keep them a little longer. It will work out, trust me it really will. it want be long that he will be just excited to come to church as school.

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S.W.

answers from Montgomery on

Why not let him stay with you in the service?

I doubt the other parishoners would mind, and it would cause a whole lot less stress on you and your son.

The church we attended had a nursery and childrens church, but it was optional. The children were always welcome to stay with their parents if they so chose to.

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N.W.

answers from New Orleans on

We are having the same problem with our 24 month old son. I have never put him in any type of day care, and we live away from family, so he does not get left with others very often. We had always kept him with us in church because he has really bad food allergies, and the nursery worker was insistant that she knew what was best for all kids to eat because she was a grandma. Once our son was about 14 months old, it became too hard for us to keep him from talking through the sermon, which made it easier for us to just not go. When we started trying to put him back in the nursery at about 17 months of age, he would scream and scream. Then he got to where when we would pull up in the parking lot of the church he would become hysterical with crying. I felt horrible, but we continued to try until he became much better. The last 2 weeks are the first times he has not screamed going into the nursery. He still wants to be clingy to us while we are taking him in, but he is now coming home and telling us what bible story he learned, so I know he must be enjoying it once he gets in there.
Good luck!

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D.B.

answers from Jackson on

Hi A..
I am a former child care provider for 25 years. I don't want to alarm you, however, if your baby is okay in a day care center, and not in a church nursey, it would throw up a red flag to me. When your child in not in the nursery,visit it at different times, when the workers don't know you are coming. This is a good rule to follow with any child care center. If the doors are locked, there is a reason. I had an open door policy 24 hours a day.

If things check out okay, your child may be feeling anxiety from you or the workers. If you would like to write me for any reason, youmay do so at ([email protected]____.com). Good luck. I know how frustrating it can be. I'm a Mom of four.

D.

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S.G.

answers from Oklahoma City on

Does your church have a cry room? Ours does & it's great! Take him to church with you. Be sure to bring lots of snacks, drinks, & toys.

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K.B.

answers from Birmingham on

Can you not take your child into the sanctuary with some age appropriate toys? Our church doesn't offer childcare during the services so the kids can be with their parents.

I'm sure that after he has been away from you all week long, the last thing he wants to do is be away from you again.

Have you ever thought about trying to find a career where you can work from home and raise him so he doesn't have to be away from you so much?

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A.C.

answers from Tulsa on

A.,
I can sense your frustration. It is important for you to go to church and get filled up so you can give back to your family. It could be that your son is programmed to know that if he cries long enough someone will come and get you!
In that case it will take a patient Sunday school worker to work with him, or possibly ignore what he is doing. He may cry all service one week, but that may be all it takes? It could be that he is strong willed enough to play the game or he is having separation anxiety. But if he does well in other situations/daycare then I would wonder. I would talk to the 'Children's Pastor' or nursery director and see if they would be willing to work with you and your son. I would pray about it and ask the Lord how you should handle your son. You are a great mom that needs a break to refuel! Blessings, A.

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L.L.

answers from Little Rock on

I have never left my children in the nursery. Yes, they are wiggly and sometimes make sounds in church. Sometimes I spent more time training the kids than I did paying attention to the lesson presented. But they have also learned to sing at young ages, learned how to sit quietly, and spent time with me doing what is most important - worshipping God. I just took a bag of books, crayons, a small toy maybe, cheerios for a snack, maybe a sippy cup, and we sat together. I find nothing Biblical about families worshipping separately. I only use the nursery for diaper changes or when I need to step out with a particularly loud child. Then I always stay with the child and return to the service once settled down.

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K.W.

answers from Dothan on

We have a couple of those in our church nursery, including my granddaughter. Some of our senior citizens have started an adopted grandma/grandpa program for these children. The grandma/pa comes into the nursery and dedicates her/his time to the one child. The child may be held the entire time, or just have someone to help calm their fears until the child is able to handle being in the nursery.
My own son wouldn't stay in the nursery without me for a whole year. I would sit in the nursery and listen to the preacher via the nursery monitor. Seriously, the pastor had the monitor that you would normally put in the baby's room at the pulpit and I had the parent's monitor. All the workers could here the preaching on the monitor. It was great.

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S.S.

answers from Tulsa on

Maybe he does that because he knows you will come and get him that you are close by unlike the other nursery.or maybe you should just check on him after 5 to 10 minutes to see if he acts upset when he doesnt know you are watching and also to make sure the workers are friendly to him like they act like when you are there.

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J.D.

answers from Tuscaloosa on

I wouldn't assume anything "bad" happend at your Church's nursery. The bottom line is your child is uncomfortable for some reason leaving you at Church. He is going to an uncomfortable situation. Maybe he doesn't know the nursery workers/volunteers, maybe he is bored in the nursery and maybe he just is in that stranger danger stage.
Now, after some time of getting the response he wanted and needed it is he routine to get upset until you or your husband come back there and he likes this.

My daughter is almost two and we are going through the same thing since we changed Church's. This is the first time she has ever been shy or intimidated by the nursery or joining any group of children playing at daycare, the park, etc.... At our other Church, she loved the nursery and we had not problems.

Me and my husband have been taking turns going back with her trying to get her use to the routine and the one thing we noticed is that our new Church has a very lax environment where our other Church was more structured and similar to day care where the same teacher/nursery worker was there each time. Maybe both our Church's need a more structured program.

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S.B.

answers from Tulsa on

Check with those in charge of the nursery, sometimes they will let you stay in there with your son. And eventually he will get used to it. Then you can go out and enjoy your Sunday service! I always looked forward to putting my sons (4 of them) in the nursery so I could enjoy my 2 hours for me!

And the most important of all is to pray over your son. Pray the peace of God over him and watch things change!

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K.W.

answers from Lawton on

Hi A.!
I work in the nursery at our church.We see this alot! Some times if the parent wants, they can stay in there with the child for a while and then sneek away.Sometimes that works or if the parent doesn't mind the child crying we just tough it out, we try to make it as fun for the child as possible w/extra TLC.Some parents don't like for their child to cry at all which is fine too.It's just a shame that the parents have to miss church. Sometimes we see that if children miss some services because of illness or other circumstances it's always rough the first few times back!But it does get better with time!Myself, our middle child went through the same thing so I started working in the nursery every other service to get her used to it. She's nine now & I'm still in the nursery!
Hang in there:} This too shall pass!

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C.H.

answers from Birmingham on

My sons had 2 different daycares when I was working at one they loved going, the other one they would scream, kick & cry. Come to find out at the one they hated, she was spanking them, putting them in corners for most of the day & not letting them play with any of the toys. I myself grew up in a miserable babysitting atmosphere so I just listen to what my child is telling me. Yours is telling you for whatever reason he does not feel safe or secure or stable there. It could be something as simple as he doesn't like the tone of someones voice. I am sure he is being well cared for but he is also being traumatized when he is put in a uncomfortable situation. Sometimes it is an adjustment phase but if he has gone throuh this more than 3 times than he should be past adjusting to a new situation. My suggestion would be to rally the church to build a parent room, this is a seperate room usually with a glass window to view the church where parents sit with their children & are able to hear the sermon thru a speakerbox, this way the children are with their parents also able to hear the sermon but not interuppting the church when the get a little restless. Another option is to rally the church to install a speaker system thru out the whole church so you can hear the sermon no matter where you are, that way you can take your son to the regular sermon but when it is apparent he needs a break you can take him to the hall or bathroom & not miss the sermon. I would vote to do fundraisers for the church to build the parent room, I am sure there are more parents that would appreciate this option. Otherwise I would take turns going to church & as spouses you can converse with each other what went on that sunday. God gave us the gift of children & the responsibility to protect, teach, and care for them. If your child is truly panicing than you need to not expose him to that situation. He may know something you don't. Sorry if this seems harsh but I have had many bad personal experiences with myself, husband as a child, & own children when it has come to daycares & babysitting, enough to know that if a child is acting wrong than someting is wrong.

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L.T.

answers from Texarkana on

Don't stop going to church! Will they let you stay with him for a little while so that he know you are not leaving him? Sometimes this helps, and also you would be surprised, but the personality of the one babysitting him, a child can tell personality conflicts before an adult can.
Hope this helps,
God Bless,
Loriann

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M.N.

answers from Alexandria on

A.,

There are lots of answers to this question. Bottom line is that there is something or someone there he is afraid of, and knowing how he reacts, it is not fair to him to tramatize him every week. My first question would be, why don't you attend services at the church that you take him to during the week? If you are set on attending your church, then you could start by staying with him for part of the service. If he calms down with you there, then gradually increase the time you stay. When you see he is off playing well, then you try to leave him there. It may take a while. But if it means that much to attend that church it is worth a try. You could try to figure out what scares him, but it could be something that only happened once. It could be one of the other children, or a toy or even the tone of someone's voice. I have found that children are pretty good judges. Either way, good luck with it.

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M.B.

answers from Lafayette on

Hi A.!!! Would he be quiet and sit still in church with you? It all depends on the child, but I think that a child between the ages of 1 and 2 are the hardest age to bring to church...because they want to get down and they are not always quiet, yet they don't quite understand.

Do you have a cry room at your church?? All of the churches around here have them for young children.

I won't be much help...we have always brought all of our kids (babies too) in with us to church (we sit near the back) and if one starts to fuss, cry, or misbehave my husband or I goes to the cry room with that child until they calm down. We bring small books for our younger ones. In 2006 we had our 6th kid and our first girl. I always end up in the cry room with Lauren...but she's learning how to be quiet.
GOOD LUCK!!

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S.A.

answers from Dothan on

We have the same problem and my husband felt he should just stay home with the child as we could not make it through a service. We tryed to bring the child into the service and we made it a little longer than usual. I had to stop singing in the choir to help out with the child. It is a delimma for sure. Is there anyway you can stay in the nursery with him a few Sundays to see how it works out? Perhaps that will give him a comfort level and soon he'll stay on his own.

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J.K.

answers from Oklahoma City on

Is it not possible to take him to the service? I've been to churches before that didn't have a nursery. I don't know how well that would work out, just an idea.

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S.H.

answers from Mobile on

being a mom of three boys and a nursery worker , i would maybe try having somone else take him in the room. try letting hubby or have the workers come into the hall to get him .this may help him from thinking you are the one leaveing him ? good luck

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M.M.

answers from Lafayette on

A., Sounds as if your son has some type of insecurity at your church. Maybe you could try to sit with him for a few minutes before leaving him alone with them. Also,even though you could use the time alone, you might want to consider in bringing him into the santuary with you. After alll, he's in a daycare all during the week. Observe his behavior. If he is well behaved inside the sanctuary with you, there is no reason to leave him in the nursery. Just the fact that he is listening to the word as it goes forth is enough to have him inside the sanctuary. After all, we do go to church for a spiritual feeding. Your Baby's little spirit is open ground. It nourishes/feeds from whatever is given. Children do not know any better than to eat whatever given on the dish. When they don't like it, the way to reject it is to act out or throw the dish accross the room. In your little darlings' position, crying out is the only way to get you to hear his plea. I pray this works for you.

Merry M.

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C.D.

answers from Oklahoma City on

Have you tried visiting other churches just to see how he reacts in other situations?

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M.W.

answers from Shreveport on

I apologize,I don't want to worry you, but due to the fact that he does go to another daycare and does not have a problem with it, my first thought would be did something happen at this daycare to truamatize him. Maybe another child was mean or a teacher yelled at him? I would attempt to get that settled first then i would try a couple different things. Maybe one of could stay at the daycare with him while the other goes to church, playing with him and showing him that it is safe and fun. Try this a couple times and then attempt to only stay half the time and so on. Possibly before you try this you could leave him and try to observe from somewhere where he can't see you and if you see that the teachers are unable to console him you could go to him console him then try to leave right away but repeat the peocess if neccesary. I don't know if this will work for you but it's worth a shot. Good luck.

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L.S.

answers from Little Rock on

I feel for you. I worked in our nursery at church. My advice is for you to keep trying with your child. Yes, it may be frustrating but with everything your told about your children while they are growing is that they need consistency. Keep taking them!!! Don't worry about being paged out of service.

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C.N.

answers from Baton Rouge on

My daughter hated the nursery at our church. We never figured out why, but it was the same at a couple of different churches, so I just took a few of her favorite books, her Raggedy Ann, and some paper and a couple of crayons with us, and told her she had to be quiet if she wanted to sit with us. She did fine. When we would stand to sing, she would stand up and stretch.

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L.C.

answers from Birmingham on

Hey A.. On top of making sure I had all of his favorite toys and snacks-I would try to stay with him some. Maybe start out staying 10min for a few Sundays. Then cut down to 5min if you see some progress & hopefully before you know he'll be excited about going! if you don't won't this to cut into your worship time-you could go early, stay 10 and not miss anything. this exact same thing happened w/my son-he's now 8-and this worked for me. Good luck and keep us posted! L.

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C.I.

answers from Fort Smith on

My oldest child had extreme stranger anxiety that started the day after her 2 month shots and lasted until she was nine months old. By stranger anxiety, I mean extreme fear of everyone except mommy and daddy. (Including grandparents) She still had anxiety problems after that, but they were more manageable. At that young age, they had to put her where she couldn't see anybody - like in a swing surrounded by blankets or in the crib with the mirrors covered (she didn't like to see that crying baby). It is much more normal for children your child's age to experience stranger anxiety and/or separation anxiety. Are there any children in the nursery that he knows and "plays with" outside of church? I suggest making an effort to spend time with children that he will see in church during the week or on Saturdays. Then, on the way to church act excited and say something like "You are going to get to play with Johnny in the nursery today!" "He is going to be so happy to see you." Also mention the nursery attendant(s) name(s) and say how excited they are to see him. Act excited to see them yourself. You may try staying with him for a while to engage him with some toys/activities. Continually tell him what a great place the nursery is. Ask the nursery attendant to engage him while you are there so that he feels safe - maybe she could use something like bubbles, books or a favorite toy. Don't stress too much because he can sense that from you. You and your husband might trade weeks spending time with him in the nursery rather than staying home. Maybe you could be a nursery volunteer for a while, and work up to leaving. Just know that this won't last forever. It is so frustrating right now, but just remember that one day this will be one of those "remember when" experiences. Good Luck!

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D.H.

answers from Monroe on

I am director of the children's department of our church. My suggestion to all my moms that this happens to is as follows:

1. Stay with them for the first time to reasure them that it is a safe and ok place. It may take a few times. Hopefully the nursery policy will let you do this.

2. As the child gets familiar with his surroundings start easying out. It is like winging them off of a bottle, a little at a time. He should get comfortable about you leaving and the first few times he stays, come in early to get him. It is a time and reassurance thing.

Good Luck- D. in Monroe, Louisiana

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M.R.

answers from Enid on

Church nurseries can be a mystery. My 3 children all went through it with pretty much the same workers, but they all three responded differently. It turned out that the one that was panicked was actually afraid of one of the other children in the nursery. It's hard for the workers to watch all the kids all the time, but they finally did pinpoint the problem to the dominating little boy.

Another of my children went through a short spell of fear, but we finally figured out that he had seen one of the other kids getting in trouble, and was afraid of that worker. She only needed reassurance from that worker that she was loved.