Starting any kind of childcare is a huge milestone for both parents and child. It’s a tricky, emotion-fuelled time that in many ways is a huge leap of faith.
Is (s)he ready? Did we choose the right care? Is this centre good? It seems the answers to all your worrisome questions can only be confirmed by starting.
You can however take much of the concern and guess work out of your decision making by accessing Starting Blocks.
What’s Starting Blocks?
Starting Blocks is an independent government program that assists parents with the information they need about early childhood education. This resource is jam-packed with valuable information about types of care, rankings for individual centres, a centre comparison tool and much, much more.
So, let’s say you’ve clicked over to Starting Blocks, you’re super happy with your centre choice and you’ve skilled up on all the resources you need to feel like you’ve made a great decision based on your child and family’s needs. The next bit is on you…
How parents can help children settle in to day care
Depending on the age and stage of your little one, pick and choose from these suggestions as to what applies to you.
Communication with your child
As with all good interpersonal relationships communication around starting childcare is key. Let your child know what is happening and what lies ahead. If possible talk for a period of several weeks leading towards them starting. Your child will feel more in control, confident and less blind sided with an extended period of communication before their first day.
Communication with carers
Work on building honest, direct and straightforward relationships with your carers. The more relevant information you give them the better they will understand your child’s needs and your expectations.
Talk with the carers about how your child is settling in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for any tips they might have (remember they’re seasoned pros and your little person is but one of many they have helped to settle in!)
Consciously model a friendly and relaxed relationship with your centre’s staff. Children trust those that you trust so not only will this mean they work ‘with you’ but you’re leading by example for your little one. You got this mum!
Don’t project your grown up stuff
One of the biggest mistakes we make as adults (despite good intentions) is projecting our own feelings in a way that impacts our children’s experiences. For example, you might be sad your little one is starting – do your best to hide this from your child! Yep it’s hard and yep you’ll probably cry but wailing around the house and making this a giant drama is definitely not going to help!
Your child needs to know day care is fun and exciting and they will make wonderful new friends. Your anxiety and stress can definitely become theirs so try and keep any negative emotions in check.
Another valuable consideration is to remember little ears are big listeners. Be mindful of conversations with your partner, chatting on the phone to a friend etc. You might think your child is engrossed in Paw Patrol while you unpack all your emotions about your little one growing up but kids listen in! This is a definite case of ‘loose lips sink ships’ so be careful discussing your feelings around your future starter. Save these for after bedtime with a supportive glass of wine!
Reach for the books
There are many kid’s books available about starting day care. These are great tools in helping your child settle in that make the messaging part of your everyday routine. Some favourite recommended titles include: Maisy Goes to School by Lucy Cousins, Bye Bye Time by Elizabeth Verdick and Marieka Heinlen and Charlie and Lola: I am Absolutely Too Small for School by Lauren Child. If you’re less of a book family and more about TV (hey! There’s no judgement here) there’s definitely appropriate childcare episodes in Peppa Pig, Daniel Tiger and The Hive.
Have a pre-starting short visit
If possible, make plans to do a short visit to your centre before starting day. You might like to stay or the staff might encourage you to leave for a short period. Trust that your carers know how to handle this. You have chosen your centre based on research and ranking so let them be the experts. Go and grab a coffee, scroll Facebook or sit in your car and wait but let your child have the space to settle in – you won’t regret it!
Choose a special toy or transition object
Your child may have a special favourite toy already that will be part of their successful starting tools. Having an object from home can assist with settling in as a means of comfort and confidence for a child. A soft toy for cuddling or a pocket pal to keep with them are great ideas! For smaller children packing their sleep buddy they use at home helps to keep their routine sleep cues in place.
Run, don’t walk on drop off day
Straight up – the first day is hard. You’ve read the books, packed the special object and been oh-so-positive about how awesome starting day care is. Chances are you’re still going to want to cry like you’re watching a Beaches followed by The Notebook marathon. Today is the day to channel your inner Kathy Freeman and run like the wind. It is important to say a clear and loving goodbye so your child knows you are leaving. Avoid hanging around for one last cuddle, intervening if they’re crying or lurking at the gate like a stalker. Pull yourself together and go. It’s going to hurt but just like a Band-Aid – we all know it’s better ripped off!
Starting child care is a big, big thing for both you and your child. Prior research using valuable resources like Starting Blocks as well as adopting strategies (like the above!) to help your little one settle in will make the milestone less stressful and more successful for everyone.
From one mum to another, just, do you best. You will survive and your kid will thrive! I promise this seems enormous now but like anything else new the more you do it, the easier it gets. Here’s to a happy start for you and your little one!
This is a sponsored post for StartingBlocks.gov.au