The first day at day care is an important transition in most families. Things change, and for a young child with limited experience, change can be scary. Moving from the unquestioned security of a home and loving parents to an uncharted environment with new people, new activities and new rules can be confusing, and even frightening.
There are steps all parents can take to ease the transition from home to the day care center, and preparing your child and yourself for new routines can smooth the move.
Start by explaining what day care is. Talk about it – a lot! Little kids don’t know. They may be unfamiliar with socializing with others. Describe a typical day at the day care center. Explain the roles of day care personnel. And start talking about basic social skills. Review the center’s schedule. Explain where you’re going after you leave and when you’ll come back. Build confidence and try to describe it as a fun adventure.
Try a few play dates at home. Children learn critical social skills in a structured environment like a well-run day care center. Contact other parents and get the kids together. Make it fun for everyone – parents included.
Visit the day care center ahead of Day 1. A visit, and introduction to the adults who work there, lessens fear of the unknown. Arrange with the center’s director to visit with your child and take the tour. This is an opportunity for your child to become familiar with day care, and it’s an opportunity for you to ask questions. If you have questions, bring a list and ask.
Do a few test runs. What do you need? What do you bring? Time how long it takes to arrive at day care with 10 minutes to spare. Start the day care routine before the big day to smooth the transition for your child, you, and the rest of the family. Start adjusting sleep patterns as soon as possible to make sure your child gets enough sleep.
Let your child bring a favorite toy. Teddy bears and blankies have a calming effect. Ask if your child can bring a favorite toy to make him or her more comfortable with this important transition.
Schedule time to get your child settled. Get to the day care center a little early so you and your child can adjust. Take the time to greet care givers. Show your child around and introduce your child to the other children.
Develop a routine for leaving. Prepare your child for your exit. Ask if the child has questions, or would like to do something before you leave. Provide a count down, “I’m leaving in five minutes.”
Be on time for pick-up. Make daily pick-ups part of the day care routine. Pick up your child at the same time each day to develop a comfortable routine. This is also the time to check in with care givers to see how the day went – especially Day 1.
Let your employer and co-workers know what’s happening. Sending your child off to day care may also be a big transition for you. A little support from the work team can make a time of adjustment a little easier for you and your child.
Add extra family time on weekends. Take advantage of the time you can spend with the family. Make weekends family time. “Turn off the TV and let’s go do something together.”
You can smooth the transition from home care to day care with good preparation, a positive attitude, an understanding of your child’s feelings, and an understanding of your own feelings.
The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.
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