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5 tips on easing the transition to day care

Key takeaways

  • Research, plan and tour facilities to find the best option for you 
  • Prepare and label everything you need in advance 
  • Remember that big emotions are normal for both you and your child

Whether you’re returning to work or just taking some time for yourself, sending your little one to day care is a momentous occasion for all parties involved. It’s your child’s first little step into the world without you, and that can be a source of big emotions (on both sides). 

Here are 5 simple tips for making the transition to day care as smooth as possible 

1. Do your research

Finding a childcare provider that works for you is the most significant step when it comes to easing your child into day care. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution; every parent’s (and child’s) needs are different.  

Start your research early and don’t rush into anything. Take the time to explore and tour a few options to get a feel for the facilities around you. As well as proximity, cost and availability, you should also think about the style of care that would suit your child’s temperamentPerhaps your little one would be better suited to family day care in a home-based environment, or they might feel more comfortable in a larger day care facility that offers a lot of structure.

Next, meet – and spend some time with – the people who’ll be caring for your child. After all, you’re potentially going to be trusting them with the most precious thing in the world. Ensure you’re asking plenty of questions and listen to your gut.  

2. Do a trial run

Most childcare services will encourage you to hang around for an orientation session with your child. Considering they’ll be spending a significant amount of time there, familiarising your little one with the environment will go a long way to making them feel more comfortable when they arrive for the real deal.

Stick around, introduce them to the staff, and maybe get on the floor with them and play with some of the toys. Model a positive attitude towards day care so your child understands that it is a happy – not daunting – place.  

3. Get organised

The last thing you want to be doing the morning of your first dropoff is scrambling to gather all the gear your child needs for the dayThe evening before the big day, take some time to write a simple checklist of everything you need: nappies, dummies, wipes, water bottle, clothes, sleep toysbottles and more. Don’t forget to label all your items, as well. Things can get mixed up quickly with so many little hands and minds involved all day! 

4. Anticipate behavioural changes

While some children will have no issues at all making the transition to day care, don’t be surprised if you notice some changes in your little one’s demeanour – especially at dropoff time. If they’re exhibiting signs of separation anxiety, know that this is a common reaction that will likely resolve itself with time.

If anxious behaviour persists after the first few weeksmake it a habit to contact the day care centre after drop-off and see if it continues after you leave. If it does, try to work collaboratively to find a solution that eases some of the stress on all of you. Provide as much information as possible to your care providers, including habits, routines, likes and dislikes. Also, try not to stress too much if they get sick – think of it as building their immune defences.

5. Be resilient

Research shows children who are securely attached to their caregivers show more curiosity, self-reliance and independence, and tend to become more resilient adults. But that doesn’t mean you won’t find your own capacity for resilience tested. Separation anxiety is a two-way street, and it’s natural to feel lonely as your little one steps into the world without you.

Stay in tune with your emotions and recognise that it’s OK to feel unsettled or sad. Prioritise self-care during this time and try and tap into simple activities or rituals that you can enjoy with some new-found personal freedom. Don’t feel guilty if you find yourself enjoying some downtime, too. Remember that everything you’re doing is hard work, and you deserve to have an opportunity to unwind 

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