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On Call: Balking at Daycare

Q. At first, my toddler seemed to love daycare, but now we have problems every morning. She won't get dressed or use the potty. She's acting like a baby! What's wrong?

A. Has there been any significant change in your family's life recently  -- like a move, a divorce, or a new baby? Your daughter is clearly upset by something and is showing it in the only way she knows how.

If there isn't anything new happening at home, then daycare is the likely problem. Talk to the daycare provider to see if she's noticed anything going on, like a conflict with another child. A surprise visit might be a good idea.

If everything seems fine there, try to show up a little earlier each morning and spend some time with your daughter to ease her separation anxiety. Send her off with a picture of yourself or a lovey, and remind her often that you'll be coming to get her soon. The Kissing Hand, by Audrey Penn, can be perfect bedtime reading for this situation; the little raccoon in the book doesn't want to leave his mother, so she kisses his palm and while he's at school he touches his palm to his cheek to feel her kiss.

Anything you can do to make your toddler feel close to you right now  -- cuddling with her, going on some special one-on-one outings, reassuring her often that you love her  -- should help. If you're still having trouble, ask your doctor for advice; she knows your daughter's history well and can suggest more specific solutions to the problem.