My baby is starting daycare
Preparing the first ‘back to school’!
Your little one will start daycare in a couple of days, weeks or months? For your child, it will be a great experience, filled with excitement and various stimulation: an environment filled with colors, odors and new sounds, creating a bond with a new and unknown daycare worker and learning to cope with other children with whom he’ll have to share the daycare worker’s time and attention.
It will be quite an adjustment for you as well. Your baby, whom you’ve been protecting since birth, will now enter into the ‘real’ world. You will have to learn to let go and trust that someone else can take good care of him You will have to accept that things may be done differently than how you would do them. That’s a lot of “letting go”, right?
You’ve now found the perfect daycare for your little angel. You’ve visited the place with your child before the first day so he could adapt to the environment in your presence. You’ve asked all the questions that were bothering you, prepared and name-tagged all your child’s material and have filled-out all the necessary information about your child’s life habits. The adventure can now begin!
Know that a slow and gradual integration will allow your child to get used to this new situation calmly. Remember that in Early Childhood Centers, daycare’s and family daycare settings, if the child stays for 4 hours daily, it’s enough to book a place in daycare. Since younger children’s long-term memory isn’t well developed, it is best not to favor close days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, for example) its better rather days like (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). The ‘ideal’ five days integration process should take 4 to 6 weeks.
From the moment your child wakes up, he will feel like the routine is turned upside down. Mommy seems more in a hurry and more nervous too! She comes and goes, prepares a bag and doesn’t sit down to swallow her breakfast. Something is going on. Talk to your child! Explain what is going on and how the day will unravel, even if he is only a couple of months old. It’s amazing how the sound of your voice is soothing for him…and talking will help you get a hold on this new reality.
Cries and a hard separation
During the first few days of daycare, your child may cry (and you too!) and it’s normal. Both of you will go through some nerve-racking moments. Whether you are home or at work, your heart probably won’t be in it… Try to change your mind and enjoy this child free time to do activities that you enjoy and calm your nerves by calling the daycare. Don’t worry! The daycare workers are used to having worried parents call to check-up on their child’s integration!
Your child may also have a great first and second day in daycare – he is exploring and is curious about the surroundings- and then it becomes more difficult after a couple of days. The child realizes that these new surroundings are here to stay and that mommy isn’t near him anymore. Fear of abandonment now takes over curiosity. Even if this situation is hard on you, be reassuring. Your child feels your emotions, positive and negative!
Even if your child doesn’t fully understand what you are saying, talk to him about daycare and the fun things he can do there, and even talk about what you will do during the day. Tell him that you will come back to get him and give him references in time (before lunch, after nap-time, etc.). Talk to the daycare worker in front of your child. It will show him the trust you have in the daycare worker, and will also reassure you on the bond being created between your child and the person taking care of him.
Finally, your child could cry when he sees you again at the end of the day. He’s expressing what he feels, and that’s healthy. Tell him that you understand and put into words his emotions (“You were sad to see that mommy wasn’t there anymore, but you see, I came back. I missed you too!“). At home, talk about daycare. Display his drawings, crafts, other masterpieces and pictures of him with his daycare worker. Most importantly, tell him how proud you are of him!
Eventually, the daycare worker will become someone important and her presence will be enough to comfort your child. It is with pride, and a little pinch to the heart, that you will see your little one leave you in the morning with a smile on his face and join his friends in daycare!