Can Daycare Make a Child Clingy?

There is nothing fun about dropping your toddler off at daycare and listening to her as she screams, cries and begs you not to leave her. You might be torn between feeling your heart break for her and hoping that she’s not getting teary snot all over your pantsuit before your big meeting at work. It’s not uncommon for your toddler to become clingy when you leave her at daycare. Nearly all toddlers go through a phase of separation anxiety.

Separation Anxiety

Most children go through a stage in which they become exceptionally clingy. You might start to think that you have a permanent growth on your hip from the amount of time you spend carrying your toddler around during this stage. When your little one suffers from separation anxiety, it means he is scared and unsure of his surroundings when you are not around. The good news is that daycare is not directly responsible for making your toddler clingy. He’s clingy because he’s at that stage in his life. The bad news is that daycare can make his clinginess worse.

What is Normal When it Comes to Clingy Behavior

The clingy behavior your toddler exhibits when you leave her at daycare is likely perfectly normal. Toddlers who are suffering from separation anxiety will cry, want to be held and will even act shy around other children and adults, even ones they know well. This is perfectly normal behavior that does not require any special attention. There is nothing you can do to treat your child’s clingy behavior, and taking her out of daycare is not the answer, since daycare did not create her clinginess.

How to Handle Clingy Behavior at Daycare

According to the University of Illinois, one of the best ways to handle clingy behavior at daycare is to make your goodbyes short and sweet. Stay firm with your toddler when you say goodbye, and refrain from dragging it out longer than it needs to be. Tell him that you love him, give him a hug and explain to him that you will be back. It may help you to explain to him when you will be back in a way that he understands. For example, explain to him that you will return after he eats his lunch. That way, he has a concrete idea of when you will be back for him rather than a general, “I’ll see you later,” statement.

What Happens When You Leave Your Toddler at Daycare

It’s hard to listen to your toddler have a breakdown when you drop her off at daycare, but it’s not as bad as you think it is. Her clinginess is a sign that she has developed a good, loving relationship with you, which is exactly what you want. It’s hard to stay calm and walk away when your little one is crying and clinging to you, and you can’t get that picture out of your head easily, but she’s fine. According to Carol Watkins, MD, your toddler typically only cries for a period of three or four minutes after you leave her. You can stop feeling sad for yourself thinking about your miserable little one, because by the time you’re pulling out of the driveway at daycare, she’s already forgotten she was upset and she’s playing with her friends.