It can be so hard, that first day at child care. Hard for you and hard for your child. Some children will love it from the start, others just won’t. The good news is that most children will settle down and get used to the new arrangement eventually.
There are some things you can do to help make this transition as stress-free as possible. Here are my top tips for helping your child settle in and eventually (hopefully) love their time at child care:
- Prepare them. Make sure your child is prepared for this change by talking to them before their first day. Tell them where they will be going, what they will be doing etc. Don’t just surprise them with an out-of-the-blue trip to the child care centre.
- Show them where they will be going. Visit the centre with your child on a few occasions before you need to leave them for the first time. Show your child where they will be going and introduce them to their carer and perhaps some other children.
- Settle them in. On the first day, arrive a bit early so that you can help your child to settle into an activity before you have to head off. They may be less likely to be upset when you leave if they are having fun and are distracted.
- Don’t forget their comforter. Make sure you take their favourite toy or comforter with them. This can help them relax when it is sleep time or when they are feeling a bit unsure.
- Act happy and confident (even if you aren’t feeling it!) Try to be aware of your body language. If you are feeling anxious and showing it, your child will feel anxious too. Don’t be hard on your child, allow them to express their feelings about the new situation.
- Don’t sneak away (even if the carer suggests you do). Make sure you say goodbye to your child when you leave. Sneaking out the door while they aren’t looking will only increase your child’s anxiety. Say the same thing every time you leave so it becomes a ritual they get used to.
- Have an alternate drop off person. If your child is particularly upset with you leaving, see if your partner or a trusted friend can do drop off instead. This might help until they settle in a bit more.
- Keep things at home familiar. Because there is some much change going on in your child’s world right now, try to avoid making other changes to your child’s routine until they get used to the new child care arrangement.
- Be open to moving them. If after a few weeks, things are still not great, be open to the possibility of an underlying problem. This arrangement may just be a poor choice for your child. This doesn’t necessarily mean that anything bad is occurring, it could be something as simple as a personality conflict between your child and a carer.
Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.