Once you become a parent, you have to be prepared for your heart to burst with pride on a regular basis. You also need to be prepared for it to break on a regular basis as well, and starting your child at daycare for the first time will most likely be a heart-breaking experience. It is hard. Your baby will cry, you will cry, there will be tears all around. But, that it is all completely normal and your baby will be just fine.
It may not seem like it at the time, but when you look back on these tumultuous first few days of daycare, you will see that everyone was ok, and your baby thrived and grew. Here are some ways that you can help to make the transition to daycare easier on both you and your child.
Once you have found the daycare that you will be sending your tot to, get in touch with them. Find out what their daily timetable looks like, and start to implement some of those routines in your own home. This will make the transition easier on your child when they start there.
If they tend to do naps in the afternoon only at the daycare, take a few weeks to wean your little one from their morning nap, and get them settled into the routine of napping in the afternoon. Try to implement a few of the important routines in your own home before they start at daycare.
If possible, try to visit the daycare more than once with your toddler. Allow them some time to get familiar with the facility, and play with the kids and the toys there. This will help when it comes time to start there, as they will be more familiar with the people and the setup.
Perhaps they could stay for snack or play outside in the playground with the other children. Whatever you can do to increase their familiarity with the daycare, the better.
If you haven't already gotten your child involved in some little group activities, try to do so before they start daycare. Any environment where your child would be interacting with other children will help them to build their social skills and help them to get more used to other kids.
If at all possible in the class, try to distance yourself a little bit, and give your child time to explore and interact with others without you right there. This will help to build their independence and confidence, so when it comes time to start at the daycare, they will feel more comfortable without you right by their side.
Some daycares allow for a part-time start for toddlers, enabling them to get used to the facility before coming full-time. If your daycare allows this, set up a schedule for integrating your child into the daycare at a pace that works for you and your baby.
Plan to drop your child off for an hour or so, and explain to them that you will be back to get them shortly. After that, plan for a half day visit and pick them up at lunchtime. This gradual start to daycare can help to lessen everyone's stress level.
Drop-offs can sometimes be the most stressful part of starting daycare, as this is when you will see the tears the most. Your child is trying to get you to stay, and the best way they know how to do that is to cry. For the majority of children, their tears are dry before Mommy even makes it to the parking lot. That's a hard thing to believe, I know. But it's true.
Make a plan with the daycare ahead of time about how you will handle drop-off and pick-up time with your child. If it would be helpful for one of the daycare staff to gently take your child from you after you give a quick kiss goodbye, then tell them to do that. Staff won't often step in unless asked, and yet having someone take your child so that you can leave can allow your child to begin their day and put the tears away.
Allow your child to bring a special stuffy or blanket from home, that they can snuggle at nap time and have with them when they are feeling sad or homesick.
It can help to bring them a lot of comfort. It makes sense that they shouldn't be carting the toy around with them all day long, but during nap time it makes sense for them to have a toy to snuggle with, one that's familiar and smells like home.
It is completely understandable that you will be feeling all sorts of feelings when your baby starts daycare. Sadness, guilt, worry, etc. Allow yourself to feel these feelings, and try to be kind to yourself during this time.
Regardless of how you are feeling though, be sure to project only positive energy around your baby. Let them know that you are super excited about them starting daycare, they are going to have so much fun, and you can't wait to hear all about it when you come to get them. Show excitement about the toys that are there and the activities that they will be doing, and be animated when speaking to the staff there as well. Discuss any concerns or complaints in private, away from your child. Your child reads your energy, and if you are positive and excited, they will be too.
As mentioned above, drop-offs can be the most challenging part of this whole process. This is where your baby is going to pull out all the stops to get you to stay. This will likely include crying, holding on to you, screaming for you, and refusing to leave your side. But trust in the fact that you have chosen a solid daycare, and everyone will get through this.
Keep drop-offs light-hearted, positive, and quick, for everyone's sake. Have a plan in place, give your baby a quick kiss and a happy "see you this afternoon!" and pass them over to the childcare provider, regardless if they are screaming, crying, or wailing. Walk out the door and don't look back.
This may be starting to sound like a heartless article, but it's really not intended that way. When your child sees you at pick-up time, they will sometimes start to cry. It's not that they're trying to put on a show for you, or make you feel bad, or anything like that.
It's just that they've held it together all day, they've managed the day without you, and seeing you at the end of the day brings such relief, happiness, and love that sometimes it shows itself as tears. Don't buy into them and start fretting that something is wrong, just take it that your child is so happy to see you. Bundle them up in a big hug and let them know how happy you are to see them.
This is a hard milestone for parents to go through, dropping their child off at daycare for the first time. It's not an easy time for anyone, as you all adjust to the new routines, and your baby gets used to their new environment. Incorporate lots of extra snuggles at home during this time, to reassure your little one that everything is ok.
Have faith that you all will get through this process, and that your baby will be just fine. Trust that you can do this, Momma. It will be a great experience for your little one. They will make new friends and learn new things, and they will be better for it in the long run. Trust that this too, shall pass.