Almost one year ago to the day, my then 11-month-old son Leo started at family daycare so I could return to work. I remember those first drop-offs as highly emotional times that involved a lot of tears; from Leo as he became more aware that I was leaving him, and me as I felt all kinds of guilt and worry about whether he would be okay.
Fast forward to January 2019 and while Leo occasionally still gets upset after holidays or sick days, he is very happy to play and learn with his little friends every week. I certainly don’t worry anymore, and there is zero chance of tears from me as I whizz off to grab a coffee before going to work in peace.
The challenging experience of those initial daycare drop-offs stayed with me, so I spoke to new-to-daycare mum Alicia Marchetta, as well as two experienced childcare educators for their six top daycare-related tips:
1. Introduce them slowly.
Starting any type of daycare will be a big change to your routine and Jessica Woodford, an educator with Jellybeans Family Daycare, advises that it is best to start slowly.
“I always recommend parents have some stay-and-play time with their child in the environment before the big day. Becoming familiar gradually with the new place and the people, helps the child and parents feel more comfortable prior to the first official drop-off.”
Alicia Marchetta, mum to baby Ace, decided to start him at daycare the week before she returned to work, to help them both feel more relaxed with the new arrangement.
“I dropped him off and then spent the day pampering myself with some long-awaited hair and beauty appointments, which certainly helped me to enjoy my time away from him!
“I know that when it is time to start work, I will be feeling much better about leaving Ace, thanks to the trial run and I will be able to focus more at work, knowing he is okay.”
2. The first goodbyes are always hard: be quick, consistent and reassuring.
Feeling anxious about how Ace would handle his new daycare environment, Alicia posted on a private parenting Facebook group seeking advice.
“I was worried about how Ace would cope without me so I asked the group for some ‘first day stories’ and tips.
“The best reply for me was ‘don’t hang around too long and drag out the goodbye. Kiss them, tell them you’ll be back later and then go.’ In fact, the longer I was there with Ace, the harder it was to leave.”
Lenora Newcombe, early childhood teacher and owner of New Lambton Infant Educare believes that if a child is showing signs of separation anxiety; acknowledgement and reassurance is key.