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Helping your child adjust to child care

Published on Monday, 05 December 2016
Last updated on Thursday, 18 November 2021

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You've just started your child in care. It's the first day however things go wrong and your child protests loudly when it's time for you to say good bye.

Many children experience anxiety when starting a new child care arrangement but there is plenty you can do to make the transition as stress free as possible for you and your child.

Here are a few tips:

  • Prepare your child by talking to them in advance, tell them where they will be going, what they will be doing.
  • Take your child to visit the provider or carer's home on a few occasions before you need to leave them for the first time. Show your child where they will be going. Answer any questions they may have openly and honestly reassuring them that everything is OK.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of time so that you can help your child to settle into an activity before you have to head off to work. They are less likely to protest your departure if they are having fun and involved with an activity.
  • Familiar objects such as a favourite stuffed animal or security blanket should be on hand. Your child may find it easier to adjust to a particular care situation having a favoured toy to hold when feeling anxious or upset.
  • Try and allocate enough time so you aren't rushing to sign in and settle your child into an activity.
  • Pay attention to your own body language when saying good bye to your child. If you're feeling uncertain about the new arrangement you could be conveying some of your own anxiety to your child.
  • Resist the temptation to sneak out the door while your child isn't looking. You'll simply create more problems for both of you. Fearing that you're going to disappear again, your child may become unwilling to let you out of sight for a minute – even when you are at home.
  • If your child reacts strongly see if your partner or a trusted friend can drop the child off instead. They might actually be protesting your departure more than the particular child care environment.
  • Ask your child's carer if they can provide insights about the problem. For instance maybe the child doesn't like one of the other children in the group or is having difficulty settling down for an afternoon nap.
  • Consistency is important so stick to a routine. Avoid making other changes to your child's routine while getting used to a new child care arrangement. For example this would not be a good time to move them from a cot to a bed.
  • Accept the fact that it takes time for young children to adjust to a new child care setting and some children take longer than others.
  • Be alert to the possibility of an underlying problem. If your child hasn't settled into his arrangement after a couple of weeks, it may just be a poor choice for your child. This doesn't necessarily mean that abuse is occurring. The problem could be something as simple as a personality conflict between your child and a caregiver.

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