“Baby Struggling With New Baby In Childcare”
: I have a 7 1/2-month-old daughter. She was very happy in childcare until her child care provider started watching another infant. Every time the infant cries my daughter starts screaming and crying and it is very difficult to calm her down. Her child care provider has been watching her exclusively for the past 4 1/2 months. Now my daughter must share her care provider’s time and she is not adjusting well. My daughter throws a fit until she is picked up and is becoming very “demanding” of attention. She has starting becoming very clingy to me when I get home from work. Is there any advice you can give me about what to do to help her adjust to not being the only one? How long will this adjustment period last? Please help!
It sounds like this situation has been challenging for everyone involved. Your daughter’s familiar child care setting has changed and she is learning to adapt to those changes, your caregiver is working to figure out how to meet the needs of two babies, and you are thinking about what you can do to support your daughter and the caregiver through this transition.
Babies are working to figure out their worlds. They are learning what is familiar and predictable. When things they have become accustomed to change, they have to relearn the new situation before they have a sense of trust and safety again. This is can be easier or harder depending on a child’s temperament. Some children adapt to change fairly easily and others resist change and take more time adjusting to new situations.
Much about your daughter’s child care situation has remained the same. She is in the same place with the same caregiver. What has changed is the addition of another baby, and the adjustment that the caregiver must make to care for two children. Once your daughter reestablishes her sense of comfort, she will probably enjoy the company and interaction with the other baby.
As a parent, you are in a position to support your daughter and her caregiver through this change, but much of the direct work of helping with the change will come from your daughter’s caregiver. Depending on your relationship with the caregiver, you could ask if she would be interested in discussing some ideas with you to help with the transition.
Here are some things to think about when making a change in a baby’s world:
. Temporary stress in a child’s life doesn’t have to be devastating. Stress is a natural part of the human condition. Learning how to manage stress is one of the important things children learn in families. If stress is transitory, people can figure out how to deal with it and how to recover once it is over. They may even learn something about making change, resourcefulness, flexibility, and adaptability. In certain situations, children can also learn that the thing they feared would be terrible wasn’t so terrible after all.
. Keep as many things as consistent as possible. Small changes are easier for children than large ones. While your daughter is adjusting to this change in childcare, it would be useful to keep things consistent at home. Put off having all the relatives come to stay for two weeks; wait to join that new playgroup or baby class. Don’t change her schedule in childcare, although you could come and spend some time with her there if you have the flexibility.
. Make change gradually. When you are able to affect the pace of the change, it is useful to do things gradually. Start a little at a time and when children have made that adjustment, you can gradually introduce more change.
It will also help your daughter to be spend some special time with her caregiver. Maybe while the other baby is sleeping, she and her caregiver can spend some time talking, singing or playing together.
. Allow for her feelings. Crying and clinging are the ways your daughter is expressing her feelings of confusion, fear and uncertainty. Supporting these expressions of feelings will help her make a successful adjustment. Sometimes when we feel bad about what a child is going through, it can be especially hard to listen to their feelings. However, her feelings are a healthy part of her experience and acknowledging them will help her feel empowered and in touch with herself. “I hear you crying and asking to be picked up. You have a new friend in childcare. It’s going to take some time to get to know her.”
. Support her caregiver. Spend some time talking to your daughter’s caregiver about how things are going-for your child, for you, and also for your caregiver. See if there are things you can do to support her as she makes this transition and adjustment. Has she taken classes in Child Development? There are many resources for childcare professionals to learn how to ease transitions in childcare. If she is interested you could check for classes available at a nearby college and help her get registered.