Kids, Day Care And The Shock Of The New

By: JUDY LYDEN

Scripps Howard News Service

Adjusting to a new child-care situation is tough on some children. Tears, tantrums and quivering lips are normal reactions to change.

Very young children haven't the sophistication to swallow the pain they may be experiencing, so it bursts forth.

Parents and providers need to look below the surface of these outbursts and ask: Is the child fearful or just angry? Anger at change is easily treated. But fear in the heart of very young children is a terrible monster, a predator among the small and vulnerable, and it makes good child care impossible.

Providers should know it, spot it and curb it immediately. Anger is much different. Anger comes from frustration and lack of control. A provider tolerates expressions of anger and tames them with trust and love.

Parents should always expect a provider to be a powerful influence on any child's adjustment.

She is, or should be, an open-hearted, matter-of-fact, playful teacher who both reassures doubting parents and makes children feel at home.

Getting an unhappy child to smile is one good strategy. It means breaking down both the fear and anger barriers.

But getting some children to smile might take a battalion of clowns and five pounds of fudge, and neither is always available.

So the provider resorts to her careful but firm "Miss Matter-of-Fact" role, adding: "You'll like it; I promise."

This systematic approach usually works, especially when children seem lost, worried or alienated.

Most new children will cry on the first day in a new day care. Some really tough cases are still crying a week later, but only for a short period just after they are dropped off. If a child is crying all day, every day, it means parents need to re-evaluate the whole situation.

Some children will never adjust, especially if they go to child care on a very part-time basis. Scattered time makes days seem unbalanced and unsure.

Think about it: If you spent two days doing one job, two days doing another and three more doing something completely different, the stress level would probably send you into emotional orbit.

What's the normal length of adjustment for a child? About three days. After three full days in a row, a child in a new day care circumstance should be able to participate in group activities and projects with interest.

How do you know it's not going to work? A child cries all the way to his child-care situation for weeks. He never wants to go.

How do you know it's working wonders? Once there, he cries all the way out the door and doesn't want to go home.

(Judy Lyden is a licensed day-care provider. Write to her:
c/o The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN
47702, or e-mail to jlyden@evansville.net.

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