The first day of anything can be anxiety-inducing, no matter your age. Being a young child, fears and “what-ifs” that surround the unknown can be even tougher for them to verbalize and manage. Though it may be tricky to navigate all of the emotions associated with starting child care for the first time, this story has a happy ending and help is on the way. We’ve rounded up five ways to make the transition to daycare easier, with fewer tears and less stress for both of you!
1. Get Them Psyched!
There is so much to look forward to, like making new friends, learning new skills, getting to know their new teachers and more—yes, there is a lot of “new” in there, which can be nerve-wracking at any age, but the trick is to play up the positive, and there is plenty of that!
An excellent way to help pump them up for this new adventure is to get them involved in preparing for their first day. Let them pick out a backpack they love, maybe even a new outfit and choose a favorite stuffed snuggle buddy for the day. Pack their favorites in their lunch bag, an extra treat (or two) and maybe even include a family photo in their backpack so they can share a little bit of home with their teacher and new friends.
2. Send a Stuffie
Nothing says comfort to a tiny human like a favorite stuffed animal! Many preschools and daycare teachers recommend bringing a favorite soft toy or blanket from home. Beyond a stuffed animal’s cuteness, they act as support through emotional ups and downs, and we know at this age, there are plenty of big emotions to handle. Having a “friend” with them to brave the first day of child care is ideal, since much like a parent and child, their love is unconditional, too, no matter what this exciting new day brings! Just don’t forget to bring their stuffed friend home with you at the end of the day to avoid them missing them at bedtime.
3. Do Your Homework
What should you look for? A vetted child care center. You want to choose a place with tons of experience with all types of families and kids and makes you and your child feel comfortable. Bottom line: You want to be able to walk out the door each day knowing that your child is safe, cared for, loved and supported by skilled teachers, and motivated to unleash their curiosity and learn everything they need to be ready for the next big step—a place where you feel confident in your decision to trust them with the care of your kids.
If you are looking for child care that goes well beyond babysitting, providing an educational foundation to give your kid a head start, consider Bright Horizons®. They have built a reputation for excellence, with more than 30 years of expertise operating child care centers worldwide. Why are these child care centers so coveted? They provide the highest-quality care and learning that delivers both the solution working parents need and the classroom experiences kids need to get ready for school and become enthusiastic learners for life. The environment and curriculum Bright Horizons® provides are not only educational; they are crafted with the joy of little learners in mind. Bright Horizons® also has the know-how to develop each child's growth and development—not a one-size-fits-all education.
4. Reassure Them That You Are Coming Back
It seems simple enough to understand that you will be back for them, but it’s much harder to digest this truth as a small child. Leaving your child for what may be the first time can be anxiety-inducing for both of you. So, how can you ease your child’s worries? Assure them you will be back to take them home and get a little back up from a character they know and love—a handful of kids shows have great episodes about adjusting to daycare!
5. Resist the Urge to Linger
This one is for you, moms and dads (and we’re not saying it’s easy!). Once you say goodbye, leave and don’t look back, even if you hear them cry. Much like sleep training, if you keep coming back in the room once you’ve said your goodbyes, it could take longer to soothe them. Also, keep in mind you want to leave confidently (try to hold back those tears the first few times, mama!) and again, let them know you will see them soon, at the end of the day. Kids can smell fear, well, maybe not literally, but if they see you are upset, they will be, too.
This is when it’s really important to have a child care provider that knows their stuff. You’ve done your homework finding the right child care, and that includes being able to take the reigns during drop-off. Trust that they will be able to comfort your child and put the focus on the fun of what’s going on in the classroom—experienced daycares like Bright Horizons® have this down to a science!