Transitioning Your Child to Day Care

Change is Hard For Everyone

The time has come for your baby or toddler to start day care.  Many questions run through a parent’s mind: “Will they like it?” and “Can I handle this?”  Take a deep breath, it will be okay.  Change is hard; it is natural to want the very best for your child.  There are some practical approaches to making the transition as stress-free as possible for the entire family.

Prepare Your Child Care Provider

Provide information on daily routines and anything else you think he/she needs to know in order to provide your child with the best possible care. For example, how well your child copes with changes in daily routine, the best methods to soothe your child, and so on.

Prepare Your Child

Allow your child to have a transitional object, otherwise known as a comfort object.  This can help ease the transition between home and day care. If your child has a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, he/she may find it comforting to have this special friend to hold when feeling lonely or scared. Your child may choose to bring a picture of you or something that belongs to either of you. You can also develop a goodbye ritual. This could be a secret handshake that is used only when your child leaves you, or special words that will reassure your child that you will return.

Saying Goodbye

Body language and voice: Your attempts to reassure your child that you’re leaving him/her in good hands will be in vain if your body language and voice indicate that you’re feeling ambivalent and anxious yourself. Send your child the message that you feel thoroughly confident in the new day care arrangement and that you’re looking forward to hearing all about the day when you pick him/her up after work.

Keep your goodbyes short: Keep a smile on your face, even if your child is crying, and reassure him/her that you will be back at the end of the day. Of course, you also want to validate your child’s feelings by letting him/her know that you understand that it’s tough to say goodbye (you’ll miss your child, too), but that you’ll be back at the end of the day

No disappearing act: Resist the temptation to sneak out the door the second your child looks the other way – this causes bigger problems.   Now that you’ve exited once, your child may rightly conclude that you’re likely to sneak out again. This fear can lead your child to become extremely clingy — and not just at day care. This could also damage your child’s trust in you.

Spend Special Time Together

Being separated from one another is hard.  Set aside special time in the evening for nurturing activities or discuss your child’s day if he/she is old enough to speak.  Talk positively about the day care experiences and reassure your child that you will always be there to pick him/her up.

Do you do anything for your child when you pick him/her up from day care at the end of the day to make the reunion more special?

 

Heather Rotolo is the Clinical Director at the Behavior Clinic at Penfield Children’s Center and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. As the administrator of the Behavior Clinic she provides supervision and support to staff and colleagues around the issues of social emotional development in young children.

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