10 Daycare Dos and Don'ts
Childcare options are plentiful, but that doesn't make attending or dropping them off any easier. Here are 10 daycare dos and don'ts to help make the transition easier on everyone!
Do the Math
Look for a daycare provider whose child-to-caregiver ratio will best suit everyone’s needs and expectations. Some children thrive on frequent interaction and the chance to be independent, but others require a calmer atmosphere. Visit the centerto learn if the schedule and interaction is conducive to your child’s personality and needs.
Play 20 Questions
Once you’ve verified the safety and licensing records of your local daycare centers, ask for a few referrals from fellow parents whose children attend the center. The ability to chat openly about how other parents view the care and services provided or how other children enjoy the daycare facility will help you all overcome some natural anxiety.
Ask about the types of independent play the center offers and how the children are reprimanded and fed or how special needs are accommodated. Role playing and discussing your fears and potential concerns will show the staff you’re a caring parent and provide reassuring clarity to help you select the facility that’s best for your family.
Practice Makes Perfect
You can build your child’s security with attending daycare by starting with short time intervals. A few weeks before your child will be at daycare all day, schedule short visits that last 10 to 15 minutes long. Gradually increasing the time she spends at the facility will boost her confidence to be away from home and independent. Stick to the scheduled time allotment to build your child’s trust in your return.
Familiarity Breeds Comfort
Schedule or request the same caregiver for your child whenever possible. If you hand your child over to a member of the daycare center’s staff, try to establish a connection with one individual your child feels comfortable with. This stability will reduce the stress and ease some immediate separation anxiety when adjusting to a new caregiver.
Set a Routine
Suzie Lux, a childcare supervisor in Mt. Shasta, California, urges parents to limit feeding an emotional or tearful goodbye scene. “A loving hug and kiss combined with ‘I’ll be back at 5 o’clock’ is easier on you and your child,” she says. “Parents need to realize that a drawn-out separation promotes more tears and anxiety.” Most times, the child stops crying before you’re back in your car.
To set an emotionally stable routine, you also can allot a few quiet moments with your child before you leave the house. Reading a book, rocking, or sitting with her favorite toy will give your child added attention and ease her into the transition of daycare. Spend time every day eating breakfast. Sing nursery rhymes or sit with your child and her caregiver before you leave.
Don't Look Back
In addition to avoiding an emotional goodbye, Tonya Shelton, a registered nurse and former childcare director in Algonquin, Illinois, advises not “popping” back into your child’s center. “After you’ve said goodbye and are on your way, don’t go back into the daycare center for one final check or extra hug,” says Shelton. Your return and subsequent departure may actually trigger another round of anxiety because your child will have to adjust to your departure all over again. If your curiosity gets the best of you, wait 20 minutes and make a quick call to the center to check on your child.
Don't Sneak Out
Lux also cautions that trying to avoid a scene will not prevent your child from becoming upset when you drop her off. “When your child realizes you’ve slipped away, she will experience the same emotional response as if she saw you leave,” she says. A short, loving and consistent goodbye will give your child the chance to face your absence, develop the ability to process her emotions and understand that your absence is not permanent.
Practice What You Preach
Give your baby the chance to model your behavior and acceptance of attending daycare. Let her watch you chatting with the staff to encourage your child to trust these people. When she sees your smile and hears the calm interaction between you, she will sense your confidence in her caregivers.
Have a Back-up Plan
Although your ultimate goal is for your entire family to become accustomed to daycare, it is wise to expect a few glitches along the way. Bridget Lemazny of Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, found out having a family member or trusted friend who is readily available and resides close to your child’s daycare center as an emergency contact adds an additional layer of support.
“Our son had chronic ear infections and I couldn’t keep taking time off of work,” she says. “It was such a relief to have a network of backup caregivers.” In the event you’re away from your office or trapped in a meeting, you’ll appreciate not having to scramble to find a childcare alternative as well as knowing your child is receiving trusted, tender loving care.
The Daycare Diaper Bag
Pack a few “special” items that both lend comfort and support for a child going off to
daycare. A small backpack, “dino diaper bag,” or “princess purse” filled with a combination of items lends security and creates a diversion for separation anxiety. Tuck a copy of a favorite book from home, a few family photos, or even one of your old T-shirts that your child can stow in her daycare cubby or rely on for naptime into the diaper bag.
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