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Kids and transitioning to child care: Tips for (parent) survival

Categories: Balancing Act, Kid Matters


By Samantha from Temprorarily Me

When we moved to our new home last year, as anyone would, we made a conscious effort to try and keep it simple for our oldest, Carter. At four years old, he was old enough to know we were leaving the home he’d always known for a new one which was strange and unfamiliar. Needless to say, no matter how hard we tried, he still found aspects of the move difficult. Despite spending some time moving between the two houses, letting him pick his own bedroom, and setting up a new playroom, I was painfully aware that leaving his first home was the cause for many of his tears and tantrums that followed.

We listened to his concerns, but did not pacify him with lots of cuddles and promises. We were very matter-of-fact when it came to explaining that we had a new home, while emphasizing what the same: his own room, all his toys would be there, mommy, daddy, Hudson and him would still have dinner together. We explained that a new family was moving into the other house, but all our stuff was coming with us to the new place. Believe it or not, it was the stuff that had him so worked up; he thought leaving meant we had to leave everything behind.

While Carter was able to begin junior kindergarten at the school close to our home, we had just moved a few months prior to the start of the school year so we opted to keep him in the daycare and participate in their junior kindergarten program. We felt that starting at a new school at that time may be a little too much for him.

As the school year progressed and Carter saw the kids file in and out of the school on our was past, he became more and more interested, asking incessantly when would he get to go to “big school”.

We talked about it. Everyday. For. Four. Months.

What it would be like, the friends he would meet, his new teachers, etc. By the time school actually started, he was comfortable and confident. It didn’t hurt that – even though it was a nuisance for planning – his school offers a phased entry program. (The program allows for the children to go to school for an hour to meet the teacher, then again later in the week to meet 5 or so of their new friends. Over a two week period, all of the children have an opportunity to go through this cycle.)

Ways to keep the transition smooth will vary. I mean, you know your child best. Some need a little extra cuddles while others do better with a more stern approach.

Keep Your Composure

We’ve all been there: dropping a child off for the first time be it with a babysitter, daycare, or a family member, even. It’s hard. Really hard. But keep those tears back until you’re out of eyesight. If they see you upset, they will be upset.

Tell Them You’re Coming Back

Kids have no concept of time. If you’ve ever been running late for work and tried to get them to have a quick bite to eat before leaving, well, you know what I’m talking about. Learn they’re schedule and let them know that you’ll be back after second outside break, nap time, or if they know their numbers: “when the little hand is on the five”. Then be there when you said you would.

Keep it Short

Drop-off should be short and sweet, lingering only makes it harder on everyone – including the teacher. Take them to their class, let them know you’re coming back, kiss, hug and then off. Even if they kick up a fuss complete with big ol’ crocodile tears, majority of the time they’ll be done five minutes after you’re out of sight. I’ve waited outside the classroom before to see. More often than not, they’ve settled down before I even count to ten. They play us in the worst way, it should be criminal.

Something Comforting

Both my boys have stuffed monkeys. They are their safety when it comes to different experiences: sleepovers at grammy and gramps’ house, moving from the infant room to the toddler room at the daycare, and of course, nap time. On many occasions, they’ve taken their stuffed monkeys with them to class in the morning. Usually by the time I’ve left the room, they’ve surrendered it to the teacher and moved on with their friends, but it’s long enough to get out the door.

One of the most important things I’ve learned? Kids know how to put on a show for their parents. Do not fall into the One More Hug, Mommy? trap. Oh, and whatever you do: don’t look them in the eye.

Do you have any tips that worked for you?

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2 comments so far...

  • Great post. We recommend all of those points when talking to nervous first time parents.
    Another tip is to have good communication with the teacher/babysitter/nanny.
    When my daughter first went to pre school the teacher suggested that I wait for 15 minutes before actually leaving. If my daughter did not calm down the teacher would bring her out to me. If she did not come out of the classroom it meant that everything was going well.


    Michelle Kelsey  |  December 8th, 2010 at 6:50 pm

  • I thinks of you’ve hit on lots of the most important points. I work with Kiddie Academy, and we take care to make sure that each individual child (and parents!) are transitioned into the program or from room to room in the most appropriate way. Since it can be a stressful time, it’s great that parents are involved. We also recommend phasing the change, even from room to room, so that children have the chance to meet new friends, spend time with the new staff members, and get to the know the new routines. I would also suggest that, as a parent, you ask the teachers for help! They’ve done this a million times, so they can offer you support and reassurance during the transition period.

    KATwinmom  |  December 11th, 2010 at 1:45 pm