The decision to send your child to daycare is not one that you take lightly. Maybe you've always known that your family would use daycare, or maybe you originally intended to handle childcare another way, but had a change of plans. Either way, you probably took great pains to research daycare centers in your area and choose one that suits your child and your family best. Still, that first full day of leaving your child in the care of a daycare provider can be hard on both of you. Here are a few ways to make it easier.
Take Some Time to Transition
Research shows that even babies as young as 15 months old experience higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol when they're separated from their mothers. However, the findings also suggest that the child's attachment bond with their parent stays secure, or even becomes more secure, when more days are spent helping the child adapt to child care.
What does that mean? Basically, it means that, yes, daycare will be stressful for your child at first, but it can help if the first full day of daycare isn't the first day they see the inside of the daycare. If you have enough time before you need to begin using the daycare full-time, it's not a bad idea to start off with a part-time schedule. At a minimum, you should bring your child with you to scope out the daycare, and spend some time letting them get used to the environment, the caregivers, and the toys at the daycare center with you there. You could also try dropping them off for an hour or so once or twice before the big day.
Bring The Blankie Along
If your child has a comfort object, such as a blanket, stuffed animal, or doll, let them bring it to daycare with them. Your child's comfort object is something that makes them feel secure, and if they have it at the daycare, it will give them a tangible reminder that they're safe and that everything is OK.
If nothing else, a comfort object can help your child nap at the daycare. Your child's comfort object likely smells like home, which means it reminds them of you. It can be tough for anyone, even an adult, to close their eyes and sleep in unfamiliar surroundings, so if a teddy bear or blanket can help, it's worth bringing it along.
Start a New Ritual
Kids like when things are predictable. Creating a new ritual for saying goodbye can help make the daycare drop-off feel predictable and safe.
A goodbye ritual can be whatever seems right to you – it could be saying something funny, like "see you later, alligator" instead of "goodbye," or it could be giving them a kiss on each cheek, or a high five. Whatever works. But if you establish a regular ritual for saying goodbye, your child will get the idea that the drop-off is a normal part of their day, and they'll realize that when you say goodbye, you always come back for them later.
Most importantly, stay calm and cheerful when saying goodbye. Your child will take their cues from you, so if you're upset, they'll be upset, too. Keeping your cool is the best way to help your child keep theirs. Click here to learn more about daycare centers in your area.