Is your toddler entering a structured childcare program for the first time? The transition from being home with mom or another family member to being in a daycare setting can be traumatic for a toddler, even when the caregivers are top notch and the environment is loving. To help your toddler (and you!) with the transition, Circle of Moms members share five tips on starting daycare on the right foot.
1. Ease into it.
A slow, part time introduction to the daycare or preschool environment works best for many kids. Lisa S. believes that "preparation goes a long way to easing a child's concerns" and shares that a 3 day per week structured program was the right approach for her daughter. Laurieann P. also feels that some toddlers are not "emotionally ready" for full-time care and will be happier starting the process "2 days a week to ease into it."
Jenn H. has two daughters and went through an adjustment period with both of them starting preschool during their toddler years. She enrolled them in a program known for "its loving, sweet teachers and atmosphere" and that she describes as "Mothers' Day Out twice a week for five hours each day" and found it to be a very positive way to transition them into school.
2. Set a positive tone.
Your own attitude can do a lot to set the stage for your toddler. Julie S. warns moms to be careful about transferring anxiety onto kids: "Make sure that you are not sharing any anxiety that you feel onto her. She picks [it] up — if Mommy is unsure than she will be."
Your excitement and positive energy about the school is important, as well as with your child's teachers. Melanie C. believes toddlers pick up on how you feel about the teachers when they see you interact: "Try and develop a friendship with her teachers, which ultimately your daughter [will] see and hopefully will try to mimic."
Erin H. is adamant that when it comes to starting daycare, what you say and how you say it really matters: "DO NOT say you will miss her. She will feel bad that you are missing her. Just show her you are happy for her and confident in the situation."
3. Don't linger.
An overwhelming number of both moms and childcare providers who weigh in on this this topic say it's best to establish a simple, quick routine at drop-off time. Veronica D. recommends that you "make your goodbyes quick even if she's crying and yelling... It may sound clinical, perhaps even cold, but lingering to try and quell her sadness and fears makes it worse."
Diana M. went through a tough transition with her daughter when she was 2 years old, from staying with a family friend into structured daycare. Her advice on the drop-off is to make it quick: "When you drop her off in the morning don't linger... Give her a kiss and a hug, tell her you love her, but do not cling."
4. Leave a comfort item.
If your daycare allows it, Circle of Moms members suggest giving your child a comfort object to help them during moments of separation anxiety. Moira, a teacher and mom who has gone through this transition many times with many kids, suggests "something of yours (example a scarf, jewellery)," plus telling your child "she can keep it safe for you until you get back to pick her up." This helps children trust and remember "that you will always come back to get her."
Diana M. created a comfort item with even more of a connection for her daughter, a laminated picture of herself and her daughter together: "She carried that picture in her bag for two years, but it having it made her feel better."
Comfort items don't necessarily have to be visual. Missy K. found that an audio reminder worked best for her daughter when she started preschool: "I also took her to Build-a-bear and we made a bear of her choice and I recorded my voice 'Chloe, Mommy Loves you have a great day!' and that was her animal friend at school..."
5. When they cry...
Even with the best preparation, your child is likely to be upset, at least in the beginning, when you leave him at daycare. This can be a heart-wrenching time of separation anxiety for you and your child, as plenty of moms will vouch. Emma B., whose mother runs a preschool, says that she believes about 75% of kids "put on the tears for Mum at drop off time," but that most are fine within minutes: "Its normally about boundaries and trying to get their own way, and sometimes a little anxiety."
If your child cries at drop-off time, it's a good idea to ask the teacher how long he cries after you leave. Carol W. felt much better after talking to her daughter's preschool teachers about how the rest of the day went: "It broke my heart to leave her. However, she was always smiling when I picked her up. The teachers told me she'd cry for five or ten minutes after I left, then she was fine. The teachers told me that some kids cry just in front of their mothers, thinking mom will change her mind about leaving. As soon as Mom is gone, the crying stops."
Overall, moms suggest talking and patience as you help your toddler through a major change such as starting daycare. Christine W. advises asking your toddler a variety of questions to try to get her talking about her day: try to find out what she might be worried about, what she is excited about, and what happens at school: "Keep the lines of communication open. Let your child know that she can always talk to you, no matter what. It's not always necessary even to have solutions to her problems. Sometimes just talking about things out loud with a trusted adult makes them seem less threatening. And if the situation does become overwhelming for your child, you want to be the first to know about it."
For more tips on handling separation anxiety, see 5 Tips for Easing Your Baby's Separation Anxiety.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.