I am a professional caregiver, I have an in-home daycare, and I have a problem with a little girl who has been coming to us for about 6 months. She is 19 months now and though this problem has been off and on, it is finally just making me bonkers and I can't seem to do anything about it or find any resources to help me with it! She is only with me 2 days a week (monday and friday) and seems to HATE other kids. She apparently had this problem at the dayhome she was in before us, I spoke to that caregiver and she said she never did have a solution and there were literally days that she would cry ALL DAY LONG after any small episode with another child (though particularly with another young girl smaller than her).
She is 2 months younger than my daughter and one month older than another girl we have, but has been developmentally very different from either of them. Physically, she was quite slow (not walking until about 15 months?), socially (even though she has been in care since she was 6 months, poor thing) she really has no ability to even play side-by-side with other children, and will often just "freak out" when they do something like take a toy or even play loudly near her. She seems to be very good, however, at parroting sounds and even words though she doesn't communicate with me at all in ways that I can understand. (though she always has a soother in her mouth!).
I am at my wits end because there are times when she just will not settle, AT ALL. I mean she will cry for hours, even if I try to hold her (or of course distract her in a multitude of ways). If I try to pay special attention to her, of course my daughter and the other kids will come over, and that just sets her off again.
Apparently she doesn't have this problem when in the care of only adults (with no kids around) and according to her mother she is fine at a playgroup they attend regularly- though the mother is the first to admit that she is very overprotective of the girl and is trying to stop smothering her (her words). She will send her to my place with special toys and books but the only thing that I can find to calm her is to sit her in front of the TV- which normally I only use for special occasions or when the weather is too bad to go anywhere. Her mother actually sent her with the little girls personal DVD/TV player last time! I didn't use it but I am at the point where I am going to either keep her in front of the TV so that the other kids and I can go about our days in peace or put her in the basement in a play yard so it's harder to hear her scream.
Does anybody have any suggestions, advice, links to send the mother that might also help myself? The mom is trying to work on helping her daughter be less fearful in general as well. I am generally an AP kind of parent and try to use those philosophies in my day home but the mother is different in her system, BUT she and her daughter are very attached (though she is more babying and overprotective of her in my opinion).
I wanted to add- we are testing her to see if she possibly has anything that might be "wrong" with her with some very basic tests before we consider maybe giving her a referral for professional help. I actually don't think there's anything going on though according to the different scales and tests I've looked at other than some serious social issues and maybe physical delays.
A couple of random thoughts, take 'em or leave 'em. :)
1.) Is she worse on days when she is teething, hungry, didn't sleep well, etc? Could there be a physical thing going on making her less tolerant?
2.) 19mo firstborn is still really little. I've had several of my own that are easily overwhelmed. Perhaps the mom should just look into different care for her? She could be a different child in a few more years.
3.) Do you and her mom respond the same way when there is a conflict with another child? If the mom is super soothing when there is an altercation, the little girl has learned to be the martyr. I'm not sure how to undo that unless you and the mom can do a bit of a marathon session to undo that habit. (Don't even think about it if you aren't sure this is the problem!) But, if she was super fussy all the time, and there was nothing wrong but a tendancy to be fussy, I would probably increase the opportunities to have issue, and then give her a tiny bit of calm guidance, and walk away. Cry if she must, but I would just disengage. BUT...she is so little yet, so I would MUCH prefer to just send her to grandma's (or the like) for the days she has to go, and try the social thing again when she can talk better. I'd really only want to apply this sort of "tough love" if she HAD to stay in a group care setting, and it would only be for her own good. Being upset that much of the day isn't healthy.
"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."
She is generally "fussy" but the other kids definitely push her over the edge. Sometimes just seeing them dancing noisily will set her off.
I actually have been doing something like what you mentioned, I have stopped trying to actively physically comfort her and instead verbally check in with her and offer her myself (you can come here for a hug) or offer a new toy from one that's been taken etc etc, but only picking her up when she's possibly physically been hurt (ie pushed, though I am letting the others "work it out" with some coaching now when they do that). She won't come over for comfort which the other kids all will if they need it but they tend to just pick up and go on with what they are doing.
I believe her mother feels she should be in care for some reason, and she does work from home so she does NEED care sometimes (but I know she sometimes just takes the time for herself), and I know she doesn't have the option of family. I have actually told the mom that if we can't at least start to get a handle on things that she will have to find a different care situation for her, and have suggested that she would be better off without other kids around (though I don't know how she will learn that way... but one day I know she will probably outgrow it!).
So I guess if there is a way we can work on things the mom is open to it. She was going to try to let her daughter deal with things herself at their play group instead of intervening so I'll check in with her about that.
I think the mom is probably better off with a one on one nanny. Poor little girl! I don't think I'd be putting her in the basement, but I don't blame you for telling the mother to look into other childcare options.
Oh maybe I should clarify, the basement is actually our fantastic playroom, as well as where the little ones have their nap (off of the playroom) so it's not really torture to be down there, just away from everybody else when we are doing crafts or certain activities upstairs (which seems to be what she prefers-being away from the kids I mean). I don't think it's an option financially for the mom to hire a nanny or other one-on-one caregiver, so if we can't figure out something that helps her to settle here she will likely move on and just have to go through not only adjusting to yet another home, children, family and caregivers, but also likely have the same problem since she did at her last home.
I was thinking about this today and remembered that my 18mo old does very well on her own schedule. She likes to be with the older kids, and seems to prefer them to me often, but, still, if I let her go off to play with them, she is fussy and irritable most of the time. If I put her on a 'baby" schedule, and stick to it, she is much happier. She still has times of interaction with the others, and alone time with me.
For her, it is best to follow this general routine:
snuggle with mama
pre breakfast snack and play with big kids
quiet time (usually with mama)
quiet time (with mama) followed by a nap
snack and play with big kids
play with daddy
I guess what I'm getting at is wondering if maybe you could slow down her day a bit, and deliberatly (preventatively) give her more quiet time. 19mo is not too old for 2 naps a day. She could have breakfast, play supervised, have some quiet/nap time, then lunch, then play supervised, then a little more nap/quiet time, then a snack, then mom should be there. Maybe more structure and preventing the meltdown is better than trying to deal with it after the fact?
"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."
Oh, and is it possible for her to come a few more days a week, even all 5, for a few weeks? Maybe the in and out is what's so hard for her? After she totally adjusts, then maybe go back to just m and f?
"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."
I had the same thought as the last poster. Two days (and at opposite ends of the week) doesn't give her much chance at all to get into a routine. It probably feels like disruption to her regular life. More days might be better...
Sounds to me like she has autism. My friend's daughter is the same way. Can't play with other children. When you said that she can't handle noise that was a big indicator. They can't tolerate loud noises, singing, shouting. Does she rock back and forth? The parroting is common among them as well. Has the mother gone through early intervention with her child?
Oh my goodness, please do not do an armchair diagnosis of this girl! There are a million things that could be happening and the "red flag" lists for autism are notorious for having overlapping symptoms with many, many other things. If the mother is "over protective" offering an uninformed diagnosis probably won't encourage her to do anything.
OP, have you had a serious conversation about your concerns? If you have and she is not able to address them I think it would be much better to say you aren't able to watch her over putting the poor girl in another room alone. Have you told the mother this is something you are considering? I think she has a right to know and make a decision based on that. No judgement on you of course, you have to take care of the other kids too.
Clearly this little girl needs help but only an expert who has evaluated her should venture to guess what help that might be. It does sound like she might need to be seen for an assessment by EI if her mother is willing. EI could, in theory, provide free preschool if she qualifies.
I wonder if she is having so much difficulty there, if she is really "totally fine" at a playgroup. That kind of difference between venues would make me wonder if she didn't have some kind of unnoticed trauma there? Who knows what can freak out kids that young but maybe something scared her? Honestly, since she had similar issues in her other care situation I suspect she isn't really totally fine at another playgroup. That sounds to me like maybe her mother is unable or unwilling to see what is going on. In that case, I don't know what you can do other than some gentle prodding. As the mother of a special needs kid, it can be very difficult to face the idea that your precious child might have something "wrong." That is the exact age that many issues start to become clear. I guess I would encourage her to get her daughter evaluated and, if she refuses, then you need to be honest, tell her what you are doing, and then decide for both of you if that is a situation that works for everyone. Be gentle with the mother :)
I agree that the Monday and Friday schedule is about as bad as it gets for a child like this. She is constantly having to get used to being there. She's there on Monday, gone for 3 days, there on Friday, gone for two days. Every single time she comes in, she's enduring the separation and getting used to being away from mom. Developmentally, this is a time of high separation anxiety. If she's a slow to warm up child, that's worse. If she's sensitive to stimuli (my kids both are), then the noise of other kids is going to stress her out.
She sounds incredibly stressed. She also sounds like once she gets revved up, she has a really hard time calming down. Does mom have any suggestions for how to soothe her?
This situation, as it is, isn't working for her (or you, it sounds like). Something's got to change, whether that be one-on-one adult care, or coming 4-5 days a week (maybe just half days -- could you do 4 half days for the same prince as 2 full days?).
Two good books that you (and mom) might get something out of:
The Emotional Life of the Toddler -- the first chapter is on the "fearful child" and might have some good insights.
The Highly Sensitive Child -- the title says it all.
No offense meant by stating a possible "autism." That is what came to mind after reading
the post. My friend was in a state of complete shock and disbelief when her DD was
diagnosed with Autism. I saw the pain it caused her she felt completely blindsided.
It's best to be as blunt as possible and explain your thoughts. Otherwise the girl will suffer
unnecessary. A good therapist can help you help her cope. I highly recommend this
girl be evaluated by a pediatrician.
Lulu, no offense taken by me :) All I meant was that suggesting possible diagnoses can often do more harm than good. When our son wasn't talking, didn't respond to his name, and made poor eye contact at age 2, many people suggested autism including his speech therapist. We went very far down that road, put him in a program catering toward children on the spectrum, etc. Only our son isn't on the spectrum, he has a severe language disorder which can look very much like autism to those who aren't experts. It wasn't until he got closer to 2.5 that I began to question our assumption and finally got him to a developmental pediatrician who was able to help us figure out what was really going on. There is clearly nothing wrong with being on the spectrum, but I do believe that the well meaning suggestion from non-experts actually set us on the wrong road and we weren't getting the right help for our son because we thought they knew more than we did.
That's why I agree that she should be seen by someone who can really evaluate what is going on.
Some of this sounds like normal toddler development; stranger anxiety, separation anxiety, walking at 15 months, not yet ready for parallel play. I don't know about the rest. It is commendable that the OP is taking an interest in this little girl. On a positive note, the child seems to have a strong, successful attachment to mother, the very basis of Attachment Theory/Parenting (see the experiment called 'The Strange Situation'). The mom should probably give herself credit for nurturing her instead of saying 'smothering'. Early in life, a child needs one strong consistant bond to a primary caregiver, usually mom but not always. Maybe that is why the child seems comfortable at her play group (is mom present?). When the one person that the child has bonded to is present, the child feels secure. If she is not firmly bonded to her mom, and her caregivers are changing, it can be very stressful for a child. There are various levels of bonding and some are very stressful, such as if mom or caregiver are not consistantly responsive, then the child does not know what to expect.
I had mentioned 'stranger anxiety'. It is a misleading term, because it actually applies to anyone, children, adults, even family members. It is a healthy and natural toddler fear. Not all children experience it, but it is normal, just as separation anxiety is. Another common toddler fear is of 'loud noises'. Most fear phases are over in 6 months but others may go on longer, at which point it may be phobia but still common among tots and part of development.
'Parallel play', another phase of development, commonly starts around 2-3 years of age, for some children earlier. It seems early to expect it at 19 months but never the less some children do.
Do you know if the mom has considered a mother's helper? The child could stay in her home, where she likely feels most comfortable, have mom present but have a mature teen or the like, watch over the toddler so mother can work.
Dorothy Einon's 'Learning Early' is a decent book on development, if looking for reading material. I would take information from many sources though before making changes or decisions.
I don't currently have any room on other days so the girl only has the M/F option (which is what the mother's preference was from the start anyways!). The mother is hoping to get more, and we will try to at least switch her days to two closer together at the next opportunity (likely in June I will have an opening if we last that long!). The mother has tried to have caregivers watch her daughter in her home but apparently it just hasn't worked out for her at all- I am wondering if it's just the daughter is too distracting to get any work done.
The suggestion to leave the girl in another room is actually one that the mother really likes. I believe that while they are attached she is not so much about attachment parenting! My impression is that she would be more about helicopter parenting. She is CIO and apparently her coping techniques include leaving the girl as well, or giving her a dvd player, but of course she is free to come into the room "when she settles down" at her home and this leads me to believe that she is having bad freak outs at home and her mother just doesn't acknowledge it. She says she gets her daughter out of any unpleasant situation (ie she wants a toy she can't have or somebody takes one from her) in an instant. She is with her at the playgroup and I'm sure that's why she isn't having these issues there (or not to this degree)- however they went for a play date yesterday at her old day home and my understanding is the mother was finally present while her daughter had a full scale melt down.
At the suggestion of my advisor we did the nipissing scale (both the mother and myself) and while there were a couple of things the mother didn't know the answer for because she doesn't do them (ie put this ON the table or UNDER the table) she did fine on it. I didn't have the same answers lol but I'm not really sure it's a great tool. I would like to find a way for the girl to get some assessment though I wouldn't say she's necessarily on the autism spectrum, and definitely not judging by the adults I've worked with. I have worked with school aged children with disabilities (not a lot) when I was a teacher and didn't agree with a lot of the labeling. She really may just be overparented (is that a word?) and on the slow side of development, and of course extremely sensitive. I don't know enough toddlers to really have accurate judgement I think however my advisor has been working with this girl for about 1.5 years (from a distance) and has always had concerns about her AND the mother's "overprotectiveness" of her.
I do hope the situation improves, my heart goes out to this little girl. Perhaps a doctor's physical exam in the event there is something overlooked (?)
If she is crying for such long bouts that is so stressful, I just feel so badly. I am sure it is hard for you.
Oh another good read, Margot Sunderland's The Science of Parenting.
Quote: For parents who wonder whether controlled crying is best or if constant cuddling is better, here is a clear explanation of the science of parenting styles and their effects on children's brain development. Ground-breaking research in the late twentieth century delved into the neuroscience behind child rearing, and this book is the first to explain those theories to parents of toddlers in a clear, engaging form.
I agree; this sounds pretty normal to me. I imagine my DD would have had similar difficulty handling this kind of group care situation at this age. She had tremendous stranger and separation anxiety as a baby and toddler. At 1 1/2, she might still cry if strangers got too close to her or tried to talk to her. But there wasn't anything wrong with her, and she didn't need to be forced into group situations to learn how to get along with other kids. By the time she was 3, she loved playing with other kids and liked any friendly adult, even though she was never in daycare and we never did anything special to help her learn to be social. She's 9 now, and she still loves playing with other kids and gets along well with everyone. It sounds like this girl really ought to have one-on-one care. I wouldn't worry that that would keep her from learning how to cope with other kids. At 19 months, a lot of kids just aren't ready to be social.
Yes, but for my sanity I would love it if we could find a way to help her learn to cope, she's in my care and I don't like having her in distress so often for her sake as well as the sake of everybody else! If I "kick her out" for not being ready for the situation, she will just be going into another group care situation. And I know I am a good caregiver, just don't know what to do to help her! One-on-one care just isn't an option most parents can afford here, it's quite expensive.
Thanks all for the book recommendations! I will be taking a closer look. I already suggested the Highly Sensitive Child to the mother and am looking for that one myself.
SO many good ideas offered in this thread already!
Sorry if I missed this suggestion, but would babywearing help? I'm a caregiver who has had good luck with using an ergo to calm toddlers. What does she have/use to calm herself? Blankies, special toy, special song/music.....If there is a song she knows and likes at home find out and play it or sing it when she is sad - it may distract her. If she has a special interest - dogs, cats, balls, ducks, water play, flowers, any particular sort of toy - make the most of it as you plan for her play at your home!
This is a bit woo, but Bach's homeopathic Rescue Remedy flower essence blend was amazingly helpful when my son went through tantrum phases. I do not give it, or anything, to a child not my own but I have read that you can take it yourself to help others. I have a 3 yr old now who tantrums a lot and honestly, I take it myself when I see her start to go off and it often seems to work to calm her. Maybe it calms me and she can sense it?
I have a 16 mo in my care right now who does not like the chaos of other children, either. I am teaching her some sign language and when I tell her who is coming that day (she comes first) she often signs "No- all done!" The other children are the sweetest and most gentle group I have EVER had, but this little girl would prefer just to have me and my teenaged dd around. Are you using signing or is this little one verbal? Being able to communicate helps SO much. 19 mo is not too young for simple stories about playing with others and what the routine is in your home. I have found it useful to create a little book (using a photo album) showing the routines in my home - arriving, hanging up coats, breakfast, playtime, etc all the way through to parents picking up. If a little book like this could be made with photos of your home and this little girl going through the routine, perhaps mom could read it to her on Sunday and Thursday at home to prepare her for the routine of coming to childcare the next day? Perhaps you could use it to help her through the separation anxiety so she will remember that mommy is coming after afternoon snack (or whenever?). It is important to get photos of her calm and happy at your house- if you can't, then just take pictures of the environment, what she would see from a child's eye view.
I have gotten creative with benches and boxes and tents to create little nests for my 16 mo in the playroom where she can go to be alone and feel safer. She also loves being in my learning tower next to the sink looking out the window and playing with cups, etc. while I do dishes, instead of down on the floor playing with other children.