“Mama! Mama! Mama!” Your 2-year-old sobs as you drop her off at daycare. An emotional handover (or two, or five) is not uncommon during your child’s first week of going to daycare. It can feel just about as traumatizing to you as it does to your child, but, going to daycare is just something to which you’ll both have to adjust.
Your child’s first week of daycare is an important milestone and also includes plenty of challenges. From emotional goodbyes to more stressful mornings, the first week can seem as difficult as it is exciting. We’ve put together 7 tips for you to make the first week run as smoothly as possible:
1. It’s Ok to Cry – But Plan Your Exit
If you’re worried about an emotional, difficult goodbye on the first few days of daycare, remember that it’s entirely normal. It’s ok for you and/or your child to cry. However, a lingering goodbye will only make it worse.
Give yourself a time limit or create a goodbye routine that will give you a clear exit from the daycare center. Remember, once you leave, your child may continue to cry for a short time, but will most likely get distracted by the other children, toys and activities and go on to enjoy themself.
By giving your child a hug and a kiss and saying goodbye, you communicate honesty to your child. Try to avoid waiting for your child to become distracted and then sneaking off as this communicates to your child that they should never relax in new situations because the person they count on “may suddenly disappear” says Ross Thompson, UC-Davis developmental psychologist. A predictable goodbye routine every day of your child’s first week of daycare will set the tone for positive goodbyes throughout your child’s daycare years.
The first few days of the new daycare routine can be hectic. Your child may have to get up earlier and you may be preparing to go to work or other activities. Do as much planning and preparation as possible to make it easier. You can pack lunches and snacks the night before and leave them in the refrigerator. Most daycare centers and babysitters recommend leaving an extra change of clothes for your child as well. Have this ready the night before as well. That way, when you leave in the morning, you can focus on getting your child dressed and fed. The rest of the items are ready to simply grab and go!
Struggling to keep it all together? Use Picniic’s lists and the meal planner to help you stay organized. With these tools, you can make sure you don’t forget any essentials on your way out the door. The meal planner simplifies your life since it allows you to define meals for the week ahead of time, making your grocery trip much more efficient and easy.
3. Label, label, label
Before your kid starts daycare, label your child’s belongings that will be used at daycare. It can be so easy for sweaters, sippy cups and other belongings to get left behind. However, if they’re labeled, you’ll be able to identify them quickly. You’d be surprised how many children may have the same brand and color water bottle or other items. By labeling them, you’ll ensure your child’s items are easy to keep track of.
4. Talk Ahead of Time
A few days before the first day of daycare or babysitting care, talk your child through what the new routine will be like. Mention the new routine each day leading up to daycare. You can explain that you’ll drop your child off, they’ll play for a while with other kids and then you’ll pick them up. The explanation can be simple. Even the youngest at age 2 or younger can benefit. Repeating the routine helps create predictability and reassures your child that going to daycare is all part of a plan, Heather Wittenburg, a child psychologist and mother of 4, explains.
The first week of daycare is an emotional rollercoaster. You may worry about how your baby is doing or if the daycare staff or babysitter will know who to call if something goes wrong. While many centers have forms to fill out, you can always write down a list of contacts and must-know information about your child for your babysitter or the daycare staff to have on hand. Some information you might list include allergies, phone numbers for mom and dad, your workplace information and any other relevant details. This will not only prepare the staff in the event that they need to contact you, but it will give you peace of mind knowing that your information is readily available.
6. Ask Questions
As a concerned mother or father, throughout the first few days especially, you’ll wonder what your child does during their time at daycare. At pickup time, be sure you ask about your child’s behavior, interests, if they played with other children, etc. This can provide much-needed reassurance, especially if your child was crying at drop-off time.
You can also feel free to let the staff know tidbits about your child’s interests and typical behaviors. The better the babysitter or staff know your child, the better the care they’ll be able to give your child. You might mention things like your child’s food preferences, a special interest your child has, how they dance around when they need to use the bathroom or their favorite color.
7. It Will Get Easier
If the first week feels difficult and emotionally challenging, remember, it will get easier. As both you and your child adjust to the routine, things will become more automatic. Drop-off will become regular (although there may be lapses!) and your child will grow accustomed to daycare. It’s most likely your child will even love it! So, take heart that even though the first few days and weeks may be hard, things will seem easier as time goes on. Remembering this when you’re in the thick of the first week can be just the touch of optimism you need to survive.
Yes, your child’s first week of daycare may be difficult. But, with these tips and a bit of preparation, you’ll be ready to face the change. Daycare marks the beginning of a wonderful new stage in your child’s life and yours. We wish you all the best as you embark on this new adventure!