Change in care: 18-month-old now bites

On July 12, a grandmother writes:

My husband and I took care of our 18 month old grandson since he was 3 weeks old every day. He was easy to care for and we got along very well. A few weeks ago, my son-in-law became angry with my husband and within 3 days they arranged for my grandson to go to day care full time. My grandson became a biter. In daycare and outside of day care. He goes from child to child, grabs their arm and bites hard. He doesn’t understand “time out” and is rejected by others. It is truly sad since he was a compassionate child, who played well with others.
We are heartbroken. We would appreciate any help and suggestions.

Developmentally, a change in caregivers at 18 months can be very distressing to a young child especially when that shift is sudden and the child has not been prepared for what is going to happen. (In an ideal world, children would stay with the same caregiver until age three.) A change from home-based care with a loving relative to center-based care is a significant and major change. My guess is that not only is your grandson grieving the days he spent with you, he was unprepared for the kind of new environment that he is now facing. Child care centers tend to be louder, have less flexibility in schedule, and require specific social skills that your grandson has not yet developed.

The good news might be that if your grandson is in a professional program (perhaps one accredited by NAEYC) with teachers who are sensitive and nurturing, who are patient and knowledgeable about child development, and who have skills working with families, they are already working with your daughter and son-in-law on helping your grandson in his new environment.

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