Enrolling your child in a day care center or family day care presents a whole set of potential adjustment issues. Not only is the child with a new caregiver, they are in an brand new environment. The more time they have to get used to the idea before going to day care for the first time, the better the transition will be.
One of the best ways to put your child at ease prior to starting day care is to have them visit the facility or family day care home, preferably more than once, for short visits. They can interact with the primary caregiver at the facility, as well as with the other children that will be in their room, or not interact at all.
It may take some time before your child is ready to participate with their classmates, and that is all right. Your job is to be supportive of your child and not push him or her into playing with or talking to others if he or she is not yet comfortable doing so.
Some experts suggest reading books with your child about going to day care before the first day arrives. Both before and after reading together, talk about your child’s feelings. Always be reassuring, explain why this arrangement is going to be good for them (they will make friends, get to play, etc.), and above all, remain positive. Your child is likely to adopt your outlook. If you have a bad attitude about the childcare situation or your return to work, chances are good that they will feel the same.
Another way to ease this big change in your child’s life is to get them on an adequate sleep schedule at least several days, if not weeks, before the first time at day care, if they are not already on one. Grade-school-aged children typically need at least 10 or 11 hours of sleep every night; toddlers and preschoolers need even more.
Determine how much time you and your child will need to unhurriedly prepare to leave each morning, and make that your child’s wake-up time. Then count backward from that time, 10, 11 or 12 hours, depending on your child’s age and sleep pattern, and make that bedtime. Then keep to that schedule. A regular bedtime every night will help give a sense of security to a child in transition.
Try to spend a few minutes with your child when putting them to bed. Sing to them, read a book or just talk (or let them talk). Not only will these become cherished moments for both of you, but the dependability of the routine will help them deal with feelings of uncertainty about going to day care.