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Your Child Is Suddenly Afraid Of Their Daycare: Why?

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The first few weeks of your child's daycare experience were amazing: they seemed to love every minute of it and always had great stories to tell when they got home. But now they don't seem to want to go and you aren't sure why. You know the daycare workers and you trust that they aren't doing anything wrong. But why would your child suddenly turn their back on daycare?


If your child is suddenly unwilling or even terrified of going to their daycare, there is a chance they may be getting bullied by one of the children there. Daycare centers don't take kindly to bullying, they may miss subtle signs or the bullying child may be good at hiding their behavior. The following are signs and symptoms that your child is being bullied:

  • Loss of toys
  • Cuts and bruises
  • Afraid of being alone
  • Withdrawn and evasive
  • Suddenly defensive about minor jokes
  • Seems to be in pain

What can you do in a situation like this? First of all, you need to talk to your child and get them to discuss the bullying. While most people believe that standing up to bullying is the best solution, at the daycare level, it's not really that helpful, as the child doing the bullying may just strike out. Instead, you need to let the child know that they are good, that you love them, and then talk to the daycare (like Cottonwood Montessori) immediately.

They Aren't Getting What They Want

Some children begin to react poorly in daycare because their teachers there won't let them get everything they want. For example, they may make them share their toys or limit their television time in ways you don't. This change of pace will be difficult for a child. Signs they may be reacting negatively to authority include:

  • Tantrums
  • Indulgence at home (eating too much, watching too much television, etc)
  • Speaking negatively about daycare workers
  • Fighting with siblings over toys

If your child is an only child, there's a chance that this may be their first experience dealing with sharing or listening other signs of authority. Sit down with your children and discuss why it's important that they share. And invite your daycare workers over to get to know and play with your child. That way, they're more likely to trust their authority.

Separation Anxiety

Many children often go through a phase of separation anxiety, during which they are afraid or emotionally unable to be away from their parents. This difficult period can begin even after a child has spent time away from you. There are multiple reasons this anxiety may begin, including:

  • Fear of losing you
  • Difficulties with friends in the daycare
  • Struggles with the workers
  • Changing moods and personality

The secret is to wean them away from you over a given period of time. For example, you could take some vacation time, but spend time with them at their daycare center. Spend almost the whole day with them the first day, but decrease your time by an hour or two every day. After awhile, the child will get used to you leaving and will feel comfortable being left alone.

These three reasons are the most common causes of daycare angst in children. If your child doesn't seem to suffer from these symptoms or doesn't seem to feel any better, it may be time to talk to a child psychiatrist to see if deeper problems aren't the root of the problem.