We all know that it can be very difficult to leave your child at a child care center. Parents worry about their child’s behavior, whether they will get enough attention, whether they are staying active, whether someone will help them tie their shoe, whether they are being fed, and more. As a child care center director, I have observed some behaviors that seem to help the drop off experience for everyone.
- The first step is being ok with your decision. Your child can sense your anxieties and will feed off them. Do your research in advance and pick the center you are most comfortable with. Then relax and be content. When the parent is anxious, the child becomes overly anxious.
- The second step is preparation. Talk to your child. Let them know what will be happening. It is a good idea to take your son/daughter to the center prior to the first day so they can become comfortable with their surroundings. The more prepared your child is, the easier it will be. Let them know who will be dropping off and who is going to pick up. Let them know that they will be eating lunch, taking a nap, and playing outside. Tell them as much information as is appropriate for their age.
- Make drop off short and sweet. If they are already prepared, don’t prolong it. Prolonging it will only make it more agonizing for your child. Just walk your child into the classroom and greet the teacher. Tell them they are going to have a lot of fun, kiss them goodbye and walk out. Staying while they cry only makes it last longer and they will repeat that behavior. If you stay outside the door or in the class while they cry, they know that is all they have to do so you will never leave them.
- Be consistent. Take them at roughly the same time and pick them up at roughly the same time each day. Your schedule isn’t always predictable, however, during the first week adjusting to child care, consistency is key. If you don’t have to work a full day on Wednesday, leave them there as long as the rest of the days that week. Plan to make the schedule as consistent as possible. After the first couple of weeks, they should be adjusted to what is happening to then make changes to the schedule as needed.
- Communicate with your child. Find out how their first day went. If they had anxiety over something, address it positively. Again, children feed off your anxiety, if we can calm their fears and anxiety, it will make this transition easier.
-Pattie Shomaker, former child care center director, UT