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Should Daycare Workers Say “I Love You” To Kids? Parents are Divided

A Reddit thread has jumpstarted a poignant conversation

A debate is going on about how much of a role should daycare workers play in children’s lives. After all, they often spend many hours with your kids each week, taking care of them, encouraging them and supporting their development. Some wonder if it is OK for daycare workers to tell kids that they love them, or should only family members do that?

A reddit user took the query to a parenting thread this week, writing: “I picked up my child today from daycare and as we were leaving my child wanted their dummy (trying to ween off them). The daycare worker (50ish female) spoke to my child then cuddled them and said, ‘I love you.’” Then the poster asks, “I get that they spend a lot of time with these children but is this normal?”

The thread received hundreds of responses.

One poster seemed to hint at the central tension in the original poster’s question, i.e., that parents are generally more cognizant of and fearful of touch in educational environments since reports of sexual abuse occasionally come to light. But the poster wrote, “Honestly the fact that saying nice things, and telling people you know that you love them is no longer commonplace is not a good thing. We are social creatures, a large part of our brain development relies on physical touch and social interaction.”

The consensus in the thread generally suggested that hugging and telling kids that they are loved is OK, with some caveats. One poster expressed, “I don’t mind people telling my child(ren) they love them, as long as there are absolutely no physical boundaries crossed. Lap sitting is okay. Cuddling is okay. Do not ever kiss someone else’s child.”

One parent wrote a heartfelt response appreciating her child’s “’daycare mom’,” saying, “I call my daughter’s daycare teacher her daycare mom and we’ve become outside of daycare friends. She’s with her half of her day. She comforts her, plays with her, wipes her tears when I’m not able. I know she loves her, and that makes me happy.”

A Duke University study suggests that children who had an affectionate mother often grow up to be less anxious than those who had mothers who were less affectionate, possibly implying that affection, including from a “daycare mom” could be beneficial for a child’s development. So, should daycare workers and teachers saying, “I love you” be commonplace?