As parents, even after selecting a childcare that meets your family’s requirements, complement your parenting style, and possesses a wealth of expertise, it’s normal to feel anxious that your child is not ready to start childcare. But never fear! There are a few strategies that you can use to help prepare yourself and your young child for childcare.
1. Talk about childcare
Introducing childcare to your child in conversation can help to familiarise them with the idea of childcare as a friendly place. If your child is old enough, have daily conversations about childcare and emphasise the positives such as making new friends or being able to play with different toys.
2. Practice childcare experiences
Part of what makes childcare so scary for children is the idea of strangers taking care of them in a strange environment. A child may feel at ease being looked after by grandparents and close relatives while you are at home, but they could feel otherwise when they are in a new setting. As a means of fostering independence, expose your child to spending time with a trusted carer or friend without being present.
3. Start slowly
To make the transition easier, start your child’s daycare programme with a few days each week rather than a full week, if possible. Before switching to full-time childcare, try 3 – 4 days so your child is not overwhelmed and has the opportunity to return to a familiar home environment. To prevent unnecessary stress, avoid starting your first day back at work on the same day that your child starts daycare.
4. Allow for extra time at drop-off
If you think you need 5 minutes to drop your child at their new school, add at least another 20 to 30 minutes. Some children get very tearful at being left behind, making it hard for parents to leave for work. Childcare staff are experienced in handling these issues and they will help comfort and distract the child as you both adjust to the new routine of leaving them at the centre.
5. Set them up for success
Ensure your child has all the items required by the childcare centre and that everything is labelled. Childcare centres typically provide parents with a checklist of items to bring that may require an extra set of clothing, medications, outdoor gear, and more. Provide food and snacks if required.
6. Celebrate your time together
Consider enjoyable family activities you can do when you have more time together outside of work and childcare hours. The transition to daycare will be more challenging in the initial weeks, and everyone may be on edge. Spending quality time together creates invaluable memories and it is a great outlet for stress.
7. Do not feel guilty
Many working parents feel guilty putting their children into a childcare centre, but in fact, it is a very responsible parental decision to make. You are ensuring that your child gets the best care and developmental support while you continue to work to support the family financially. Moreover, when your child attends daycare, they get a priceless opportunity to engage with others and develop their social skills in a supervised environment.
Remember, it’s only temporary
Transitions are never simple and saying goodbye to your child is not easy either. However, with a bit of planning, taking your toddler to childcare can be a rewarding and positive experience. Fortunately, many centres have dedicated staff with years of expertise helping families through childcare transitions. In no time at all, your child will be looking forward to their enjoyable interactions and activities at their new daycare.