For parents, contemplating childcare for babies and children can be stressful. Separation anxiety is a force of nature but, more often than not, it’s the parents that feel this anxiety first … and anxiety is contagious!
Remember though, childcare is about more than just getting you back to work, it’s about welcoming your child into a healthy, safe environment where they can engage in early social development with carers and their peers.
How soon can I put my baby into daycare?
Whether you’re putting a baby into a childcare centre at 6 weeks or putting a child into childcare at 18 months, as long as your child has become interactive and responsive, a little preparation is all they need to be psychologically and emotionally ready for the transition into childcare.
The earlier you expose a child to the childcare development tool, the stronger and more independent they will become! Think of this as early training for big transitions and changes to routine later in life, and try to ease them into the process with, well…baby steps!
How to prepare your child for daycare?
For very young or anxious children, it’s important that you get them used to the idea of new faces and new settings, so consider a few visits to the daycare in advance. Allow your child to look over the unfamiliar scenery, and allow the caregivers to hold and interact with your baby, while you stay out of sight.
Three or four accompanied visits should be enough exposure to prepare your child for the childcare centre. Remember, your baby will pick up on your emotions, so stay calm and enjoy the experience. There may be a few tears but push through, allow the carers to work their magic, and don’t worry, you’re allowed to feel a little jealous when that carer first draws out a giggle!
If anything bothers you about the facility or the personnel, if you have safety concerns or simply don’t like what you see, either voice your concerns or move on! If the childcare centre is to your liking, ensure you get their list of rules and items to pack, daily schedule, emergency numbers, and more for when that big day comes.
The night before daycare
It’s important that you align your baby’s sleeping schedule with the schedule at the child care centre, ensuring your child is well-rested and rearing to go when that big day comes. For new babies, check and double-check that all their goodies are packed, with extra clothes just to be sure.
Pack your baby’s trusty blankey or plushy toy in so that they can hang onto a piece of home when they get anxious. You could even keep the item in your own bed the night before, to cover it in the familiar scent of a loving home.
The first day of childcare
Even with prior exposure, this parting may be a difficult one and it could take anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months to settle your new child into daycare…but they will settle! The most important thing here is to help get your child engaged with some object, activity, or staff member as soon as you arrive on that first day of daycare.
Once your child is occupied, you need to wave, smile, reassure yourself and then hightail it out of there ASAP! The longer you linger, the longer it will take for the carer to settle your baby into daycare on that first day.
Remember, children learn through repetition, so establish a consistent routine for drop-offs and pickups, with distinctive wording and tone to help your little one recognise that this ‘goodbye’ means that you are leaving, but will be back later!
What about the guilt?
Many new parents feel overwhelmed with guilt on that first day but remember: this is not a betrayal of trust, and childcare is much more than just a convenience for you.
Childcare has a wealth of benefits for your child’s learning and development, as it is an important social and educational play-based environment that will equip your child for a bright future full of healthy social interactions.