The first thing you need to know is that yes, Baby might love his daycare, but you and your home are still his number one. It’s normal for him to form an attachment to a place where he spends a lot of time, and he might even have special bonds with caregivers and friends in daycare. That’s a really awesome thing! Baby is forming healthy, positive relationships and enjoying themselves. You can rest easy (well, easier at least) knowing he is in a caregiving situation that’s good for him.
Sometimes, the love Baby has for you and the love he has for daycare will clash a little, leading to end-of-daycare tantrums. He might insist that he doesn&;t want to go home, can’t go home, and won’t go home. He wants to stay at daycare and doesn’t care what you have to say about it. He might run into a corner, refuse to talk to you, or lay on the ground unmoving. The reason this scenario might seem so specific is that it happens all the time to a lot of parents. If you find yourself facing a surprise tantrum from an otherwise lovely toddler, you’re not alone.
What’s going on in Baby‘s head is pretty simple: he missed you. Yep, it’s counter-intuitive, but he is behaving this way because you’ve been gone for some period of time, and he wants to make it clear to you that he missed you while you were away. He is giving you an opportunity to tell him how much you missed him and how much you want him to come home with you by refusing to let it happen easily. It’s sweet in a way, but it’s not an ordeal you want to go through every single time you pick Baby up from daycare.
If it’s the first time something like this has happened, it’s possible that it’s an isolated incident triggered by something that happened that day. Try to ask Baby questions about his day and see if something specific happened or if he is just in a bad mood. The caregiver or caregivers working at the daycare should also be able to help solve this mystery. If there was an incident, you can talk about it with Baby and see what you can do to prevent it from happening again.
If you find out that Baby had an otherwise great day and has only become upset upon your arrival, you know he has the missing-you blues. There are some different strategies you can use to work through this with Baby.
“What have you been doing today?”
Engage Baby by getting him to show you what he was playing with when you arrived. Make it clear that you’re interested in what he was up to while you were gone. If it’s not closing time for the daycare, consider staying to play with Baby for a while so he can finish up his activity and feel ready to go.
“Would you like to say goodbye to your friends?”
Hanging out at the daycare isn’t always an option. When you need to be out the door quickly, it can help a lot to establish an end-of-day routine. The daycare might already have one, but if they don’t, you might want to suggest that Baby is given a certain set of tasks or activities in advance of your arrival, if you come at the same time every day. That way, he has adequate time to prepare for you and knows that right after he finishes putting away the blocks, you’ll be there. You can go through a daily routine of saying, “Go say goodbye to your friends!” as a cue for Baby to leave.
“How fast do you think we can get to the car?”
Make Baby‘s exit from daycare fun when you can. Praise him when he comes without a fuss, and make a game out of things like putting his coat on or getting to the car. You can also spend the commute talking about fun things you’ll do once you get home or what delicious meal is for dinner.
It can be really helpful to seek advice from your daycare if your child consistently has a hard time at the end of the day. The time when Baby is transitioning from their care to yours can be tough for him because the “in charge” person is in flux, and he isn&;t sure who he should be listening to and wants to test boundaries. Try to make it clear who’s in control at what time and keep the actual “we’re leaving now” process as brief as you can. The caregivers at your daycare has definitely experienced this, and they might have solutions that have worked in the past.