How to survive daycare start with a sensitive child

Since I am going back to work next month, it was finally time for Benjamin to start daycare. I have do admit this was something I was somewhat nervous about because he is a very sensitive child. Today I am telling you how to survive daycare start with a sensitive child!

Benjamin is an extremely sensitive child. He does not like being picked up by people he doesn’t know or hardly ever sees (even if it is family) and he gets very shy around strangers. He doesn’t really scream or cry whenever he doesn’t feel comfortable. Instead, he just gets eerily quiet and his face turns expressionless. This happens when family members who hardly ever see him don’t understand his personality and insist on picking him up.

It took us, as parents, also some time to understand his silence wasn’t a positive thing – we believe the child should have the freedom to decide if it wants to be touched/held by someone and wouldn’t step in whenever he got in a “silenced panic”, as his daycare director put it. Usually the next day he ends up having a low-grade fever and diarrhea. Naturally, I wanted him to have the best experience at daycare.  

Daycare start - Not just a Mom


Benjamin had his first day in daycare in the beginning of September. We got up in the morning as usual, ate breakfast and made our way there. (for obvious reasons I am not going to share what daycare he goes to or where it is located) We had already visited back in July, so it wasn’t a totally new thing for him. At the entrance we met another little boy wo was also started in the same group that day. They instantly hit it off!

Daycares in Austria have something called the “settling in period” (or Eingewöhnung, for my German-speaking readers), which I find very useful. This period can take anywhere between one and eight weeks, although it usually takes two to four weeks. During this time the child is accompanied by one of the parents, who stays in the room. As time goes by the parent starts leaving the child alone for longer periods of time, usually starting with 10 or 15 minutes.

As I expected, Benjamin was really shy for the first 10 minutes or so. Then he saw the kids were all playing along with each other and some of them even tried to take him to play with them. He ended up playing with some of them almost right away, but always close to me. A very good sign was that he willingly chose to give me his pacifier and Don – his favorite toy which gives him comfort.


On the first three days I stayed with him all the time, first one hour and then upped it to 1,5 hours. On the fourth day I left the room for the last 15 minutes. This is part of the settling in period, to give the child the opportunity to form a stronger bond with the daycare workers. Tears are always involved, that is to be expected and is perfectly ok.

As a parent, my “job” is to show him it is ok to experience the feelings he’s having. He should know the daycare workers are there for him and can give him support in whichever way he needs it. We talked beforehand and they were aware of what works best for him. When I got back the first day after leaving him alone, he was sitting in front of one of the ladies, with his back to her. Close enough that he knew she was there, but not on her. That showed me he trusted this person enough to let her close and that she respected his boundaries. Since the first time alone went so well, we ended up leaving him for 30 minutes without me in the room on the last day of the first week. 

We are currently starting our third week of the settling-in period at daycare and things are going very well. I am very happy at how things are going at the moment and am looking forward to see how they go in the future. Do you have any specific questions about daycare you’d like me to answer? 


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