7 tips for a successful transition back to child care
Dayton Children's and Preschool Promise share tips for parents
We all like structure and routine, but our children tend to need it to help regulate! We have had so many adjustments and changes recently, but continue to know and hope that life will begin to return to normal (although perhaps another “new normal”).
So what about our toddlers who are just getting used to being at home again, and perhaps seem to prefer it? How can we help them transition when the time comes?
Actually, this will be similar to helping prepare kids starting day care for the first time, or returning to school after extended holiday breaks and summer vacations.
7 tips from Dayton Children’s and Preschool Promise on transitioning back to child care:
- Have the conversation: For younger children keep your words simple and in terms they can understand, such as “It has been so nice to be home with you, but mommy (or daddy) gets to go back to work and you get to go back to “school”! It will be so nice to see your teacher and friends! Talk about the new daily routine and share pictures of what will happen. Remind your child about waking up, getting ready, going to see their teachers and friends, playing, getting picked up, eating dinner with family, getting ready for bed.
- Get back to a good sleep schedule: We may have been lax about bedtimes and naptimes as we have had to stay at home. Sleep is so important to all of us and contributes to our mood and emotional regulation, our learning and overall wellbeing, so get started getting back to that routine. Kids do well with a predictable naptime, and most should have a sleep routine before going to bed. We may have to gradually return to normal bedtime hours, so it is never too early to begin! You may want to consider listening to the same music at home that is played at your child’s center or preschool during nap time.
- Discuss emotions: It will be hard for your kids to begin to separate again, and they will have to adjust to this! You may acknowledge that they may feel sad and even a little mad about separation. They may also feel anxious as things change again. Reassure them that they can manage this and will adjust to being back to childcare! And you will be so happy to see them at the end of the day.
- Use visual cues: Little kids learn and understand through their senses, so consider using pictures and stories to help them process. You could drive by their childcare center to remind them, and show pictures of friends or teachers. When they do go back, provide a family photo for the classroom so your child can look at and hold it when he or she misses you.
- Model their school routine, including new procedures: Consider trying to model the school routine for a few days prior to return to help kids understand their new routine. You may have mini circle times and free play activities, and practice some of the previous expectations such as hanging up their jackets, or putting their things in their cubby. Practice any new steps for the drop-off procedure such as washing hands, temperature check or wearing a face covering.
- Expect some behavioral challenges: Young kids may not be able to express how they feel with words, so may instead use their behavior to tell us how they are feeling. Remember to set firm limits while acknowledging emotions- i.e, it is ok to be angry about having to be away from mommy/daddy all day, but you may not hit, throw, etc.
- Arrange special time: Once we get back to our routine, we will be tired at the end of the day, but this may be right when your kids feel like they need your attention. Try to find a few minutes for yourself to unwind, then arrange a special time with your kids, to play a game, talk about their day, or just cuddle. Remember to breathe and allow for plenty of extra time in the morning for dropping off children. If a parent is feeling rushed or anxious, the child will sense that and feel anxious, too.
Be supportive and rely on your own support system. Don’t forget that as our kids transition back to their routine, you are also transitioning and adjusting! Take care of yourself, recognize your own emotions and use support when needed!
staying healthy while in child care
Even before the coronavirus pandemic, we knew that germs were easily passed in child care settings. Now more than ever it's important to take precautions with both you and your children when going in and out of a child care setting.
Consider these tips for stopping or at least slowing the spread of germs:
1. Keep hand sanitizer in your car or purse so that after you drop them off you can use it before going on with your day. Or, if you can, wash your hands right before leaving the building and getting back into your car.
2. Wash your child's hands one last time before you leave the child care center at the end of the day.
3. When you get home, change your child's clothes and have them wash their hands again.