Top 5 Tips For a Smooth Transition to Childcare

Photography:Katherine Heise from Lamb loves Fox

By Anne Cullen

Many of the mothers I talk to assume the transition to childcare or preschool is going to happen much more smoothly than it does for their one- and two-year-olds. In a recent poll I conducted, over half of the respondents said their toddler had taken more than one month to settle into childcare, with 17% saying it took more than six months! As with anything, there is a big variance between children. Of course, some children settle more easily than others, and there is no set time for how long the transition will take. 

There are many factors at play such as your child’s personality; who the provider is and how your child is responded to by them; and how the environment is set up (noise levels, activities, access to outdoors, etc). It’s important, when possible, to choose a provider and environment that will suit your child best. (I’ll talk more about choosing a place and providers in another post.)

One thing we need to understand is that young brains don’t have the capacity to think things through the same way as older children or adults. We need to handle this transition very sensitively and appropriately for the age and stage of our child. 

You are the expert here, as you know your child best, but there are definitely some things you can do to help your child settle into care more easily.

Here are my top FIVE tips for a smooth(er) transition:

1. Preparation

It’s vital to plan several weeks ahead of time, if you can, so you and your child can really get to know the place (if it isn’t your home) and the caregiver(s). This is especially important if you are putting your child into care because you are going back to work. If you allow only a couple of weeks for the transition before starting your job, there will be far too much pressure to ‘drop and run’ before your child is ready to be left as you have to get yourself off to work. Which brings me to my next tip.

2. Slow down the drop off

Allow plenty of time at drop off so you aren’t rushed, and make sure you are able to slowly lengthen the amount of time you are away, little by little. Rushing out the door and pushing your child too far outside of their comfort zone could backfire and lead to a longer transition overall. Let them feel in control and they will relax much more quickly. This is the opposite of what parents often get told, so please don’t feel bad if your child needs you to remain with him for quite a long time before he is happy to say goodbye.

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