Worried about your little one starting daycare? Here's how to ensure your child is comfortable and emotionally ease yourself into the transition to make the separation easier.
Working as a daycare provider for the past ten years has come with an abundance of rewards, but it has also come with its fair share of challenges. One of the biggest comes with children on their very first day of daycare. No matter how you look at it, this is a stressful time for everyone—parents, little ones and providers. But, there are a few simple tricks that'll make this transition a little easier.
1. Do a practice run.
Dropping off a child who has never before spent any time at their new daycare is a recipe for a lot of tears. If possible, spend time at the daycare with your child ahead of time. This gives them time to familiarize themselves with the environment and to get to know any new faces with the comfort of having a parent at their side.
2. Establish a drop-off routine.
A little preparation goes a long way. Depending on your child’s age, you may want to give them a verbal play-by-play of how daycare drop-off will look before it happens. This might sound something like, "Mommy will come in with you to the daycare, we will read one book, have a BIG HUG, and then Mommy will go." As best you can, stick to this routine especially in the early weeks and months. These types of simple rituals help your child know what to expect at a time when everything seems new and uncertain.
3. Send a treasured item.
It is not unusual for children new to a daycare setting to attach themselves to an item from home and carry it around their new environment for a few weeks. Most providers welcome these pieces of home comfort and appreciate the feeling of security that they bring to the child. More often than not, these items get left behind with no issue as a child’s confidence increases over time.
4. Be prepared: the second day is always the hardest.
This is something I remind parents who, after a seamless first day drop-off, find that their child is clingy and upset on Day 2. This is the time when it hits home for kids that daycare is more than just a one-off—that this is the place they come to stay without Mommy or Daddy. In the case of tears, spare an extra hug and offer some reassurance that they will be okay and that you will be back soon to pick them up soon.
5. Model confidence in your care arrangement.
Every parent knows the importance of finding a care arrangement in which they are confident their child will thrive in, but, once they’ve found it, it’s equally important to remember to model that confidence to their child. Kids will be so much more likely to settle in a place in which their parents seem relaxed and connected. To this end, work on establishing rapport with your providers, air concerns you have in private and make a decisive exit at drop-off times.
6. Extend kindness to yourself and your child.
The first days and weeks of daycare are as stressful for moms and dads as they are for little ones. Make sure to make time to regroup with some down time or re-connect with a favourite family activity at the end of the day. Be patient with yourself and your family members during this time of emotion and transition, and don’t be afraid to enlist the help of family and friends.
7. Trust your instincts.
As an experienced care provider, I have a few tricks up my sleeve when it comes to childcare, but, make no mistake about it, YOU know your child best. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions, ask questions and check in during the day. If your gut tells you that the arrangement isn’t working for any reason, don’t be afraid to make a new one. At the end of the day, all parties want a care arrangement that is the best match for your child.