Pre-School and Daycare

Trouble adjusting to a new pre-school. Advice please? (Long, sorry.)

Hi guys.  This is my first post here, but I've been lurking for a little while.  I hope you can help me out.  And I apologize if it's a little long.

DD will be 3 in mid-September, and Baby Brother is due in late September.  DD had been attending a day care for about a year that only accepted toddlers and pre-school kids.  Because of baby brother coming, we recently switched her to a new place that goes from infants up to 12 year olds in before/after school care.  Obviously, the new place is A LOT bigger.  DD was in the toddler room at her old place (about 7 kids), and she was one of the first ones potty trained, and generally a little more mature than a lot of the kids in the class.  They had been talking about bumping her up to the pre-school group early because she fit in better with them.  At her new school, she started in "pre-school jr" which is for kids 2 years, 10 months (exactly her age now) to 3, as a transition room to help them get ready for the regular preschool.  There are 11 kids in the program, but with some being 3 day/week kids, there's usually about 8 or 9 there on any given day.  I think they spend about 1/3 of their day with the regular pre-school class.  Today is the end of her third week at the new place, so I know it's still early.

The first week at new school was great - DD didn't bat an eye and barely even turned back to say bye to me when I dropped her off.  The past two weeks have been a different story.  She gets super clingy at drop off and tells me she doesn't want to be there, doesn't want me to go, asking me to pick her up and hold her, etc.  She's fine at home, tells me about her day and talks about school like she mostly has fun there (more on that below), and she's fine in the car on the way to school and walking in, it's just when I go to leave.  Clingy is really not like her, and she's not shy at all.  Her teachers tell me she's doing well, though I'm hoping to really talk to her particular classroom teacher about some of this stuff this afternoon. 

She just doesn't seem very happy there.  I say she talks about it like she's mostly happy because she has said a couple of things that maybe I'm putting too much weight on, but I feel bad for her.  I asked her what are her friends names that she plays with and she said "Adreana.  But only her.  I only play with her."  They were playing play doh when I picked her up yesterday, and she asked if we could play play doh when we got home.  I said, but you were just doing that at school, lets do something different at home (I hate play doh), and she said "but I didn't get any play doh, no one would share with me."  And she's told me twice that Colin pushed her.  I'm planning to talk to her teacher about all this, and maybe I'm overreacting in feeling concerned because it's still early and she's still the new kid and all of that, but I was hoping for some input/reassurance from others that have maybe changed daycares at this stage, or seen reactions like this in kids this age.

DH and I think that maybe it's just that it's a bigger place and she's not the star of her class anymore like she was at her old school.  When DH told her old school that we were leaving, one of the teachers said "oh no, now there's going to be no one who actually listens to me!"  So I know that she was a little bit of a favorite there, if only because she was one of the more mature kids in the toddler room, and now she's one of the herd, and everyone is on the same level as her.  She doesn't get any special treatment like I think she did at her old school.  I know I'm also a little more sensitive to it because DH did 95% of the dropping off and picking up at her old school, so I never really had to deal with it before, either.  I think I'm going to ask DH to do drop offs next week, and see if she is any different with him.  Lately she's generally been in a mommy phase at home, and doesn't really want to hang out with DH much, so I'm curious how she'd react if he was the one dropping her off.  And maybe the whole mommy phase is contributing to her behavior at drop off, too.  I don't know.  Help?

TL; DR: DD seems to be having trouble fitting in at her new (bigger) daycare after 3 weeks, and I feel like she's getting more clingy as time goes on, not less.  Please reassure me.

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Re: Trouble adjusting to a new pre-school. Advice please? (Long, sorry.)

  • i am a preschool teacher and see this often.

    she has had a few transitions happen, and more to come, so this is challenging for her - or any child in fact. so not only has she changed daycares and the differences amongst the program, but you are dropping off more now too. that is a huge change for young children who need consistency. if you will be the one primarily dropping off, instead of dh going next week to drop her off, can you go together, and if things are progressing, have dh have shorter time there and eventually not at all? so you both walk in, help get her a bit settled he says goodbye, you are still there, then you leave.

    also, lingering goodbyes are actually harder on children, even if they are crying. i happily welcome families to stay in my program for the day or several hours; however, the longer that separation is to say goodbye, the harder it is for the child.  if you make a routine of it, it will help her. so, as it sounds like you are doing, talking about going to daycare and what will happen when she gets there. if you don't have one already, get a daily schedule of her classroom, so you can talk more specific with her about it. this will also help at the end of the day when talking with her, "what was the story about that you read today at group time?" etc.

    can you bring family photographs in either be put on display in her classroom or make her a small photo album that she can look at. is there a space where she can go to play for a few minutes after you leave before joining the large group. often times, as social as children are, they have a hard time joining the larger group on difficult days.

    if they do playdough every afternoon shortly before you get there, and you hate playdough, can you stay for a bit at the end of the day to do it with her? that will also help foster relationships amongst the children.

    also, the key part, children focus on the negative of the day rather than the fun. if someone looks at them the wrong way they get upset and its the first thing they tell their parents, rather than what they really enjoyed (that was observed by a teacher) during the day.


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  • Thank you so much for the input!  I really appreciate your perspective, and everything you're saying makes so much sense.

    Yesterday's pick up was a little better in that she actually didn't want to leave school, so I feel like that's a good sign.  I wasn't able to talk with her teacher, but hopefully I can next week.

    Before we get out of the car in the morning this week, we talked about how she had to go to school, and I had to go to work, but I would pick her up later and we could play after school.  Drop off is the same every morning, I check her in, we drop her backpack in her classroom and then she goes to the big classroom with the other kids for breakfast and play time until "school" starts and they break off into their individual classrooms (there are three rooms on that floor - her transitional room, the 3 year olds in pre-school, and the 4 year olds in pre-K, and they all start and end their days together).  She's fine until just before walking into the big room, so maybe you're right about the larger group thing first thing in the morning for her.  It's been helping when a teacher comes out and offers to hold her up so she can wave to me through the classroom window, so yesterday I sent her in to the classroom herself to find a teacher and ask them to hold her up.  Baby steps, I guess.

    I agree with what you said about maybe it not being such a good idea for me to have DH bring her to school next week, too.  I guess I just need to wait it out.

    Thanks for the response and advice!
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  • sure :)

    i know how hard it is to chat with teachers at the end of the day. my ds daycare providers simply say, "he had a good day" when i want to know more about his day! in my program i tend to probably share too much with families about their child's day. is there a time that you all can chat on the phone in the evening or email? chatting over the phone/email would actually be a great way, since it is not ideal to be talking about all parts of a child's day in front of the child. especially if its about drop off or being upset, the children hear that and remember.

    even though the baby is not here yet, she is most likely sensing that huge change. try to get her involved, if she is not already. bringing her to appointments (as appropriate), gathering things for baby, even if its just laundry and putting things away. of course, when the baby does arrive, drop offs at daycare may be very hard. she'll want to stay with you and the baby. if daycare allows, you and baby stay for a bit, and she can show off her baby and "teach" her things.

    also, are you picking up at generally the same time daily? it is hard for children who one day get picked up before nap time, other days they are the last ones there. so that might be something to think about, because she could be anxious all day, not knowing for sure when you'd be there. especially since children have no concept of time.

    best of luck, and you are right, it takes time. keep up with the consistency.


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  • Yeah, she also just changed to a big girl bed last weekend (I had really hoped to space out these changes a little more for her, but it just worked out this way).  She's really psyched about her baby brother, and we have been trying to keep her involved in getting stuff ready for him.  She's always been great at sharing, and she's always more than willing to give her baby toys to baby brother and everything.  She was beyond ready to switch from her crib to a big bed, and was really excited to give her crib to baby brother, too.

    And yes, I do drop her off and pick her up around the same time every day.  Maybe I'll try calling the school around nap time one day to try and talk to the teacher then.  She was there yesterday afternoon, but still had 4 kids from her class, so it just wasn't a good time.  Thanks again for your help!
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