You may be the most important factor in how your little one adapts to childcare.
"Children can tell if a parent is not comfortable leaving. If you're anxious, they will be too," explains Stacey Minott of Child Care Aware, an organization dedicated to connecting parents with the local agencies best equipped to serve their needs, based in Washington D.C. "Most important," she says, "is keeping any new childcare transition positive. No matter what the child's age, talk about why you're leaving and when you'll be back. Even infants internally clock their time apart from parents, so try to be especially consistent with timing at the beginning of the daycare transition."
Experts agree that children adapt to new childcare situations at different rates. Most children will become comfortable after a few weeks, but age and temperament certainly affect how long it can take. Babies under six months often don't experience the kind of separation anxiety that can lengthen the transition time for older babies and toddlers.
"Very seldom are children unable to adapt," says Sherri Sutera, vice president of Child Care Services with the United Way of Connecticut. In cases where they have particular difficulty, the environment may not be a good fit. For example, a child who is easily over-stimulated may have trouble in a daycare, but will do well with fewer children at in-home care.
There are many things that parents can do to ease their children into childcare. Following are a few tips to get you started: