I would like to request information about the difficulties a child can experience when first beginning to attend daycare. My son will soon be 2 years old. When he was 11 months old, I went back to work and my son started going to daycare.
The first month was very difficult and challenging, but once he had adjusted to the new environment, things were much better. Since we had found a private daycare, I continued to search for subsidized child care. Eight months later, someone recommended a subsidized daycare. I was unable to gradually integrate my son. What's more, his new early childhood educator insisted that he stop drinking a bottle of milk before naptime and needing his pacifier within the first few days he was there. I explained that since our son was highly emotional, he needed his personal routine and belongings to follow him in his new environment.
Unfortunately, she disregarded my request and continued to force these changes on him. In general, I am sure this new daycare is a positive environment for children, but since my son has been going there, he cries every morning. He simply does not want to go to daycare. He didn't act this way when he attended the first daycare. I am thinking about changing daycares again because I feel the early childhood educator isn't a good match for my son. However, I am afraid the situation will repeat itself. From birth, my son has always been highly emotional. We would like to find ways to help him manage his emotions. His early childhood educator feels he has difficulty adjusting. She claims that he tends to stay alone in a corner instead of joining the other children to play. At home, he has recently begun pouting. He can often be seen alone, in a corner.
Do you know of any resources that could help my son develop ways to better manage events and situations?
Thank you for your help!
It would be best that you address the needs of your child with the early childhood educator before definitively registering your child and, more importantly, before your son begins attending the new daycare.
Many early childhood educators are enthusiastic when it comes down to supporting a child who may be more emotionally fragile than others. Others may feel they aren't well-equipped to do so or they may be less willing to adapt their usual methods. You must be ready to accept this fact. It is also possible that there are already other children with special needs within the group your son will be joining. If this is the case, there may be less resources available, even if the early childhood educator is highly devoted.
My first suggestion when it comes down to selecting a daycare would be to question the early childhood educator to evaluate her resources and her willingness to adapt to problematic situations. Another method could consist of encouraging the early childhood educator to consult with a professional who could observe your child in his daycare environment and later offer practical strategies she could implement.
Routines and personal belongings
As you mentioned, the accessibility of well-known and established routines and personal belongings will represent an asset for your child. They will contribute to reassuring him. At first, allow him to keep a transitional object (stuffed animal, blanket, etc.) nearby at all times. What's more, you could provide portable tools such as illustrations that represent his daily routines (handwashing, eating, playing outside, crafts, naptime, etc.). This will help him make a connection between what happens at home and what happens at daycare. At the same time, a stable visual routine will make him feel safe in his daycare environment and help him anticipate the day's activities as well as prepare for the moments that may be more difficult for him.
Removing himself from a situation
The fact that your child willingly goes to a corner on his own indicates that he feels the need to remove himself from situations that provoke anxiety. Since he is able to recognize when he needs to remove himself from a situation, he is actually showing a lot of self-control. Because of this, I feel that you must support this reaction, do not consider it a functional difficulty. It may be a good idea to set up a calm area within your home or daycare. For example, a small tent or a tiny area behind a couch could do the trick. Provide a blanket (always the same one), stuffed animals, and a few toys or repetitive activities (dropping coins in a slit on a lid, inserting pegs in holes, etc.) in this area. These items will help your child calm down. If the child accepts an adult presence in his calm area, it can be a good idea to hold him in your arms, making sure not to move too much. Avoid trying to reason with him with words. Keep in mind that if he has chosen to go to his calm area, he is most likely not capable of processing verbal information which may only represent another source of stimulation.
At the same time, when the child is comfortable, it can be helpful to support him by helping him recognize his emotions. You can present pictures of different facial expressions associated with various emotions. Once the child is familiar with the pictures, you can use them to identify his emotions when needed. This learning strategy can eventually represent the foundations required for efficient self-regulation.
Finally, it is always possible to seek professional advice from an occupational therapist or psychologist to gain a better understanding of your child's behaviour and, more importantly, precise strategies to fulfill his needs. In the end, this process can be quite reassuring.
Josiane Caron Santha, Occupational therapist
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