Placing your child in childcare can fill you with emotions ranging from anxiousness and guilt through to elation and joy. As a parent you will probably feel guilty if they are sad or happy. You’ll be upset when they gleefully wave goodbye and you’ll be upset when they cry for you at the gate. No matter what age you start your child they will probably need a period of adjustment to get them used to their new setting and/or carer to allow them to feel safe and secure. You will probably have been thinking about the start date for months, researching, talking to friends and preparing. You need time too!
Children are all different in terms of their personalities, their attachment to their parents and their adjustment times to childcare. Even up to school age teachers tell us children can feel anxious about a new year, new teachers, meeting and making new friends and the challenges of school work. We have a few tips below but know that as a parent you know your child the best. Surround yourself with a supportive network of family and friends to help you through the transition and who act as your ‘brains trust’ to ask questions if there are any bumps in the road. The key is preparation, support, and patience.
1. Be happy in your childcare choice
Go with your gut. When you are sitting at your work desk and there is a nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right, you need to investigate further. Professor Matt Sanders from Triple P Positive Parenting Program says “parents are happier and more productive at work and in their relationships if they feel comfortable with their choice of care.” Ultimately you need to trust your childcare service and their staff. Start by looking at the type of child care services available, research online and ask friends and relatives for advice and recommendations but experience it for yourself, don’t take their word for it, go out and look at Family Daycare, Childcare Centres near you or chat to a Nanny agency. If you are considering a center, take a tour. Check out our top tips for choosing childcare . When it comes down to choosing childcare or comparing, look at the Australian government’s website Starting Blocks, to search the centre and find out their ratings across seven quality areas. Use the ratings as a discussion point and a learning experience to find out what aspects make up quality childcare and what you want to know about their assessment.
2. Talk to your child about the new start
Even if your child is isn’t old enough to grasp what childcare is, saying it out loud can be good for you too. Talk to your child about going to child care and point out the things they will do in childcare that they like doing. Read books about starting childcare and it being ok to be nervous. Talk about the way the day will be planned. You can do activities that help you prepare for the day like by a special hat or water bottle and put their name on it. Do some fun roll playing letting your child be the ‘teacher/educator’. Choose a special photo to bring and their favourite bedsheets and help pack the bag. Think about your child and their personality and write down a list of the things they like and don’t like, their routine and an insight into their personality.
3. Take it slow
Try to avoid jumping in the deep end with coinciding a return to work date and your child starting childcare on the same day. A phased return can really help both yours and your child’s transition and help build trust with their carers in a more gentle way. Start with a few hours or a half day. Be there for some of the time. Draw on your educators experience and advice, they have some great hints and tips and have seen it all before. In a supportive environment your childcarer will be open to you calling in and checking how they are doing, they need to build trust with you as well as your child. If you have chosen a nanny or au pair, introduce the new childcarer in a gentle way by inviting them over for a coffee and a play date and building it up from there. Reassure your child If your child is old enough, talk about how he or she feels about child care. Let your child know that they will be very busy, but at times they will probably miss you, reassure your child they will be all right, and that you will always return.
4. Keep it simple
Starting childcare and potty training can be just a bit too much at the same time for most children, so try and keep things like sleep and other routines consistent so all their energies are focussed on the transition and they are not becoming anxious about too much change. When you do go to leave prepare your child, keep the educator handy to support them. Try not to sneak away, the shock of having you there one minute and gone the next. It can often be the second or third day where your child could get upset as they are adjusting to their new routine. Try not to hang out your goodbye because the more upset your child will be the more worked up they get and then calming down can take a long time.
5. Know that nothing stays the same
If parenting has taught me one thing, it’s that nothing stays the same. Even if your child waves an enthusiastic goodbye with a huge grin and you feel devastated they seemingly don’t give hoot about you leaving, this can easily change if you have a holiday, there are changes at home like a new brother or sister, or your child comes down with a cold. Don’t be worried, just be prepared that your child is just like you at work, some days are better than others.