Starting childcare can be an emotional experience for both you and your child. As a parent, you may experience feelings of stress or anxiety while your child will be trying to cope with the separation without the benefit of your comfort and reassurance. There is no denying that the transition to childcare will be a major change in your child’s established routine, but there are several things that you can do to help it go as smoothly as possible.
1. Visit the Centre in Advance
Children tend to appreciate the comfort and security of familiar places, and being in a strange new environment can be frightening, disorienting, and frustrating. These are just some of the emotions that your child may experience the first time they find themselves at childcare without you there to reassure them. One of your first steps after finding child care near you should be to request a tour to give your child an opportunity to familiarise themselves with this new environment.
During your tour, you can explore the area together and encourage them to look around and engage with the space. You can do this by walking around the facility with your child and pointing out things that they might find funny or interesting. Try to set a fun or playful tone with them. What’s their favourite colour? Ask them how many things they can see in that colour. Helping your child establish these kinds of positive associations with their new childcare centre can help put them at ease.
2. Bring Something From Home
One of the major shocks for children entering childcare is that they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of strange sights and sounds they encounter. Letting your child bring a piece of home with them is one way to contribute to their sense of safety and security. A familiar comfort item can give them something tangible to reduce their anxiety during their first few visits to childcare.
Always check with your childcare facility first to see what items they will or won’t allow, as policies will likely vary. Here are some examples of comfort items that your child might be able to bring with them to ease their transition into childcare:
- A toy or stuffed animal
- A favourite sippy cup
- A small blanket
- A pacifier or binky
3. Establish a Daily Routine
Children tend to thrive when provided with structure, and the security that comes with knowing what comes next can help them become more accepting of their trip to childcare. Setting up a predictable morning routine can help your child understand and anticipate the flow of the day. If at all possible, start establishing your morning routine at least a week before your child’s first day, to give them plenty of time to adjust.
It can also help to give your child some control over parts of the morning routine. Try to include them in getting ready each morning. For example, you could let them pick out their clothes, which personal item they would like to bring, or even what they would like to eat for breakfast. Including them in the decision-making process, even in small ways, can provide them with a degree of control in this new and perhaps intimidating situation.
This will be a big adjustment for both you and your child, regardless of how much you prepare, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t help things go more smoothly. By helping your child become familiar with the new environment, providing them with a source of comfort, and giving them a degree of control and a predictable routine, you can help them make an easier transition into childcare.