Helping your child adjust to daycare is challenging, partly because it’s hard for us, too.
So, I like to think of daycare a little bit like coffee. Sounds crazy, right? But have you ever given up coffee? A lot of people decide to stop it quite suddenly. And they have headaches and feel unwell for a few days.
When you stop giving your body something it relies on, it retaliates. There are consequences.
Your child is also reliant on you, in a way that some people are reliant on coffee. He or she is used to having you around to get through the day.
When it comes to starting daycare, or changing carers, you need a stepping down program. Helping your child adjust to daycare should come with a manual.
If you go cold turkey – like people do with coffee – the impact is going to be greater for both of you. If you ease into things, it will go more smoothly.
So, what are some strategies to easy into it? I’m glad you asked! Here’s eight steps for helping your child adjust to daycare:
- Tell them what is going on, and answer their questions. Tell them where they will be going, what they will be doing.
- Visit together on a few occasions. Show your child where they will be going.
- When you are both happy, leave them for a few minutes.
- Tell them that you’ll be back soon – and follow through. You can start by telling them you’re going to the bathroom, if you like, and returning in a few minutes. Maybe next time you can say you have to go to the shop quickly, or meet someone for coffee, and you’ll be back in a little while.They need to learn to trust that you will return, as you say and building up your absences, and returning each time, is a great way of doing this.
- Allow yourself plenty of time to get them settled. Arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of time so that you can help your child to settle into an activity before you have to head off to work. They are less likely to be upset when you leave, if they are involved and having fun.
- Take familiar objects such as a favourite soft toy, to give them security. Your child may find it easier to adjust to a new environment, or carer, when they have something familiar with them. And a soft toy can help them settle when it’s nap time, too.
- Never sneak out without saying goodbye, even if your child is upset. This creates more problems. Your child will start worrying you’re going to disappear, and may become clingy – unwilling to let you out of sight for a minute – even when you are at home.
- If your child reacts strongly, know that this is transient, and try different options. A partner or friend could do drop off, for example. They might actually be protesting your departure more than the particular child care environment.