Starting childcare is a big change. It can be an exciting and emotional time for both children and parents. It is the first step towards your child's independence and a big milestone in their lives. From thirty years of being in childcare, here are some tips I hope may be useful for settling a preschooler in childcare.
Settling a preschooler in childcare
Several weeks before your child's first day
Talk about going to school like other friends or older siblings. Talk about where different people go during the day - dad and mum go to work, come home for dinner and we all sleep in the same house. Siblings likewise go to school and return home.
Talk about why this happens
Mummy and daddy have to go to work to earn a living (you can expand or explain what a 'living' means). Siblings and friends go to school to learn, have fun and make friends.
Parents may think that children don't understand because they don't have sufficient vocabulary - this isn't true, young children have very active and absorbent brains and can understand provided you use simple language and speak softly.
Read stories about children starting childcare
Here are some for starters:
-Llama Llama time to share by Anna Dewdrey
-Bye Bye Time by Elizabeth Verdick
-A Love You all Day Long by Francesca Rusackas
-Stand Tall Molly Low Melon by Petty Lovell
-Wherever You Are My Love will find you by Nancy Tillman
-The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin
One book for mothers who have some separation concerns themselves : "lf I Could Keep You Little by Marianne Richmond".
Take your child for a visit to the childcare
Give him/her a short time to interact with other children.
Having followed the above steps - your child may settle in happily in a few days or weeks. Some children continue to cry at the gate even after the first few weeks.
Get to know your child's teacher
She also needs to get to know you and your parenting needs (this may differ from one culture to another).
Share information with your child's teacher/childcare about what's going on at home.
There may be a new baby on the way or born, a grandparents' death, sometimes dad or mum are away on long business trips. These may affect a child's mood.
Sometimes children who have settled in and seem happy start getting upset. This is normal, and may be because the novelty has worn off.
Handling Problems with Separation
A chat with your child's teacher at the end of the day gives you a chance to find out how your child is settling in. If you find the end of the day is too busy for a chat, perhaps a note or a quick call during the day.
lf you're still feeling worried after seeing your child cry, call the childcare centre after an hour to inquire how your child is doing. Most children stop crying after a short while once the parent has left.