Starting childcare is a huge moment for children and parents alike. For first time parents, that first drop-off at childcare can be incredibly daunting and stressful.
No parent wants their child to be upset, so when those tears start welling in their eyes, the face scrunches up and the screams are about to start, parents would do anything to comfort their child and make it all better.
Dr. Kaylene Henderson knows this heartbreaking moment all too well. And has thankfully shared some tips with us on the best practices for dealing with those first day jitters.
Children may feel stressed, anxious, scared and overwhelmed. They are in a new environment, away from the comfort of their home and the support of their family.
Dr. Kaylene empathises with both the parents and children in this situation. The first thing she suggests is ensuring your child is familiar with the childcare centre ahead of time.
Your child should have visited the centre before for an orientation or stay-and-play session with you. This enforces in the child’s mind that it is a safe environment for them.
Children can also form relationships with their educators and other children while being safely in your care. Your child may start to build trust with the educators, and will feel safe in their care when you head out the door.
Dr. Kaylene further suggests creating a familial bond with the educator. One way of doing this is to take a photo of your child and their educator together to pop on the fridge at home. This shows your child that their educator is part of the family, a trusted source, and someone safe for them during the day.
With this photo on the fridge, you can even get your child excited for childcare by incorporating language such as, “aren’t you lucky? You’re seeing Miss *Taylor today!” into your morning routine.
Dr. Kaylene says “it is important to talk to your child about childcare, even if they’re too young to talk back. Babies and toddlers understand language long before they can use it themselves.”
Talking to your child about childcare familiarises them with the concept of care itself. Talk to your child about the people, the room, and the range of fun activities and play they are going to do at childcare that day.
Dr. Kaylene states that picture books are a great resource for introducing your child to childcare. Children can have that bonding moment with you as you read to them, as well as gain an understanding of what it means to go to childcare and be away from parents for the day.
Go a step further and ask your child to identify the emotions that come up during the story. “Is the llama feeling sad because she is away from mama?” or “How does llama feel better when she is sad?”
This can help your child understand the emotions they might feel at childcare and ease their worries that ‘mama’ isn’t returning. It can be a validating experience for your child, and help them make a smooth transition.
Dr. Kaylene’s biggest tip is that “building familiarity is the key to a more settled start.” If your child has an understanding of what childcare is, the activities they will engage in, the emotions they may feel, and know who their trusted support is during the day (the educator), your child will feel more comfortable and settled when it comes to saying goodbye.
To hear from our parenting partner Dr. Kaylene Henderson, watch the video here.
Also check out our other articles on this topic