7 ways to ease the transition to daycare or preschool
I’ve been an educator and a coordinator at a daycare and preschool, so I’ve seen my fair share of parents struggle with separating from their child. I’ve learned there are seven steps parents can take to make this milestone easier on everyone.
1. Don’t over prepare
Too much information is stressful for little ones. A running commentary, starting months before, about the upcoming start of daycare or preschol is only going to make a child anxious. If you have a toddler, age 2 and up, you can casually mention the change about a month before it happens. Keep the conversation simple and emphasize the positive: meeting new friends, playing with new toys, etc.
2. Expect tears from your child… and yourself (especially on the first day — or week!)
Don’t underestimate how difficult it will be for you to make this transition….actually, it’s usually harder on the parent than the child. Try to keep your sniffles for outside and cheerfully walk in with your child. Don’t worry about your child’s tears. Crying usually stops once you leave and the child has new people to meet, children to play with and of course, a bevy of new toys to explore.
3. Don’t prolong your departure
Spend five minutes settling your child and then say goodbye. This may sound harsh, but the longer you stay, the more anxious your child will become. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a child wringing his hands and pacing, becoming more and more emotional as he anticipates when his parent is going to leave the premises. Pretend you’re a Band-aid. Hugs, kisses and then — rip it off and leave. Yes, we may have to pry him/her off your leg but once in our arms the bonding begins….and that is precisely what you want to have happen. When children bond with their educators, they learn that there are other people in the world whom they can trust to love and look after them. You are instilling a sense of confidence – necessary for success in future life transitions.
4. Leave a short set of instructions
Yes, your child has his/her personal needs – but don’t go overboard (unless your child has a serious health issue like potentially fatal food allergies). Daycare or preschool is not a one-on-one nanny situation — there are many children’s personal needs and preferences to consider. One of the great lessons of daycare is learning to be part of the group. Children learn to adapt if you give them the opportunity. And it’s a skill they use throughout life.
5. Be prepared
Make sure your child has his/her favourite bedtime buddy for naptime, appropriate clothing (coats, raingear, mittens, hats, etc.), plenty of diapers and wipes plus a complete change of clothing. A plastic bag for wet/soiled clothing is a nice touch too, as they are hard to come by these days.
6. Pick them up early
If possible, arrange for an early pick-up the first few days. Adapting to a new environment is hard work, and your little one will be tired. It’s great if you can pick them up while they are still having fun — it leaves them with the desire to return.
7. Be polite to the daycare/preschool staff
Greet everyone in the morning, say please and thank you and always use a respectful tone of voice with the staff. This not only makes your educators feel appreciated but it’s the perfect opportunity for you to model respectful behaviour to your children and create a positive partnership for a rewarding chapter in your child’s life.