Preparing for Child Care Outside The Home
So you’ve made all the visits, asked all the questions, found the right outside child care. What’s next?
Making sure your child is on board.
The shift to child care outside the home can be tumultuous for both child and parent. If your child is young enough, this may be his first, real exposure to the world outside his home. You may be second-guessing and full of worry about whether he will recognize you at the end of the day (don’t worry—he will). So preparing for this change is important for both of you. Here are some do’s and don’ts to ease this milestone.
For babies and toddlers
Do start with shorter periods. You may eventually need your child to be cared for all day, but starting with shorter amounts of time at the child care facility eases your child into a new environment and the scariness of separation.
Do visit together. Make sure you accompany your child on several occasions as she gets to know her new caregivers. Spend some time with all of them together, so she knows they have your trust. Over time, decrease your presence to ease into your absence.
Do explain why they are there. Explain why the child is going to daycare, in a way he’ll understand. Be honest and straightforward. Reassure him it’s not a punishment by focusing on the good aspects of daycare (like making new friends).
Do leave a physical reminder of yourself. Whether a photo of you, a favorite toy, or special blanket, giving your child a physical reminder of you and home makes it easier for him to adapt to a new environment.
Do understand you might have to go through this all again. After vacations or illnesses, your child might be skittish going back to daycare after the comfort and familiarity of home. You have to ease him back into it by going through this process again.
For small children
Do explain why your child is there. Again, be honest and straightforward and reassure them it’s not anything they’ve done.
Do build anticipation. Help your child think of things to look forward to: making new friends, trying new food, reading new books. This excitement and anticipation will dull the potential fear and discomfort of a new environment.
Do plan time together. Again, building anticipation helps ease the change. Make sure your child knows when he will see you again and what you will do together. Even if a child can’t yet tell time, phrases like “after your snack, you’ll see me,” will help him focus on your reunion, not the unfamiliar environment.
Do talk about safety. These may be difficult conversations, but they’re necessary. Make sure your child knows about good and bad touches and who he can go to for help.
Don’t drop off your child and immediately leave. This may be easier to you, if you don’t like good-byes or are dreading the separation, but it leaves your child alone and frightened in a strange environment. The abruptness doesn’t make it easier for him; it makes it worse.
NEVER threaten to leave the child at daycare. Even if he is misbehaving, this is not a good response. This only serves to scare the child and turn them against daycare. Indeed, it’s one of the most common reasons children refuse to go back to child care outside the home.
Remember, as difficult a transition as it can be, getting your family accustomed to daycare or preschool in the right way is important. Clear your schedule for a few days to make the transition slowly, and have the confidence to know that the separation anxiety – on both sides – is temporary.