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Why does my 2 1/2-year-old scream and cling to me when I leave him at day care?

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Should I be worried about leaving my 2 1/2-year-old at day care? Every time I drop him off he screams and won't let go of me. Today, as I was taking his baby brother to the door, he started running down the street screaming.


 The first thing I'd do is talk to the child care providers at his day care center. Tell them how he's been behaving at home. Ask them what he's like while he's in their care. They may be able to provide you with some perspective. (If he's happy when you pick him up at the end of the day or when you drop by for a visit, things are probably good at the day care center; the problem lies elsewhere.)

There are many reasons why young children become reluctant to separate from their parents to go to a child care provider. Most of the time they have nothing to do with the child care provider but are reflections of other things going on in the child's life.

Family stress—a new baby in the house, a move to a new home, a pregnant mother, an ill grandparent—can trigger this type of reaction. So I'd begin by looking at what, if anything, changed at home around the time that he started acting this way.

If there has been a significant change in the stress he's feeling, reassure him in ways that focus on his underlying concerns. For example, if there's a new baby in the home, your son might be worried that he's being replaced. Tell him over and over, "I'm your mommy, and I'll take care of you and live with you forever and ever!"

Rarely, however, a child is frightened by something that's happening at the day care center. This may be anything from scary shadows in a hallway to actual abuse. If you're concerned, talk to other parents to see if they've had similar concerns. Talk to the director of the center about what's going on. If you have any concerns about your child's health or safety while there, find another day care center.


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