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What Does It Mean If My Child Hates Day Care? Science Weighs In

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Day care is one of those necessities of parenthood that brings as much stress as it does relief. You put a lot of trust into your children's day care, and expect that trust to be well-guarded. But no matter how comfortable you feel with the day care you've chosen for your little one, if they're constantly unhappy and screaming at drop off, you may be wondering, "What does it mean if my child hates day care?" Is their refusal to go just part of growing up, or does it possibly point to something more sinister?

It turns out, that's a really complicated issue, and the age of the child is hugely important. While children are by and large resilient creature by nature, they thrive on routine. According to the education journal, IDEAS, child care is one of the biggest changes in routine a child can go through. It disrupts their equilibrium, and throws their world view for a loop. Yes, it can be a very helpful, and beneficial loop, but it's one that takes quite a bit of adjustment.

For toddlers especially, this transition period can take months, noted Infant Behavior & Development. For starters, they're at a point in their life where separation anxiety is a real thing and they aren't fully-equipped on how to handle it. Also, if you're upset about day care, they're probably picking up on that fact, and it might be affecting them, according to The Journal of Childhood Development. That doesn't mean it's your fault (not at all) — the article just reminds parents that they might not have fully examined their own feelings in regards to child care, and may want to dig a little deeper.

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Your child also might just not be feeling that great. Day care, like school, tends to come with a lot of bugs. I know if I'm feeling crummy, I'm not the most cheerful of moms. Consider that your child may be having a bit of tummy trouble or something else.

However, if this is persistent, and your gut tells you something is up, follow your instinct. If you can, talk to your child and find out what's bothering them. If they're scared or hurt, address the issue immediately. If your child's day care is dismissive or refuses drop-in checks, that's a red flag. While it might be as simple as adjusting to a new routine, or separation anxiety, it might be something more, and that deserves looking into.

Kids have a lot to deal with, so what does it mean if your child hates day care? It may be very simple — the overwhelming change from home care to day care is a big one. However, chances are, with patience and time, your child will no longer hate day care, and may even grow to love it. Follow your instincts and give it some breathing room.