Transitioning your child from home care to childcare is wrenching for every parent. In fact, most babies and young children adapt to their new environment more easily than parents do. And it’s important for parents to appreciate and care for their own emotions at this juncture.
As with so many things for young children, taking it slow and easy can work wonders. If your child is moving into alternative childcare for the first time, make the transition gradual, providing lots of support.
- Make sure your child meets the caregivers or teachers before moving into this new environment. If you choose a childcare center or a preschool, make sure your child knows at least one other child in the class. If your child doesn’t already know someone, ask the caregiver to suggest one or two children who might be good matches for your child, and set up a few play dates.
- Talk to your child about the new arrangement, describing the friends to be made and the wonderful things to be done and learned. Talk about being apart and getting back together. Play games such as hide-and-seek that demonstrate being apart and together.
- When moving to a new childcare arrangement, start gradually, if possible. For example, allow your child to be alone at the childcare center for short periods at first, then slowly increase the time away from you.
- Once the new arrangements are underway, get up a bit earlier so you have time together before you leave. Also, make special family times in the evenings and on weekends.
- Let your child take her favorite toy or “softie” to school.
- Tell the caregiver or teacher of any factors that might influence your child’s behavior or needs for the day, such as a restless night, family illness or visits from relatives.
- Be aware that separation anxiety may come and go in cycles. You can ease your child’s upsets if you make your departure warm and smooth, staying long enough to let your child settle in, but without lingering. And never sneak out or lie, telling your little one you “will be right back” just before you dash to the parking lot. Your child needs to be able to rely on his trust in you as he navigates this new world.
- When you pick your child up, ask the caregiver about what happened during the day. Then discuss the day’s events with your child.