Sending your child off to childcare for the first time is quite frankly daunting ... especially if you have had 11-12 months of one-on-one time at home with your little one while on maternity leave, being their primary carer. Add Coronavirus into the mix and it is no wonder you may be feeling quite anxious about the process.
Having gone through this transition with my little ones, here are my top tips from a Mama's perspective to ensure a smooth transition to childcare.
1. Put your child's name down early
When you are pregnant visit as many childcare centres as you can to find a childcare centre that you feel comfortable with. Remember childcare centres are in high demand so it’s important that you put your child's name ("baby" with your surname) down at quite a few different centres, as you may not get your first option. Some childcare centres have a two-year wait and siblings of the centre always get first priority, so it can be very hard to get care. Keep ringing up to see if your child can get a place so your name is at the top of the list. Try and find a centre close to home (as every second getting out the door counts).
2. Make sure you are 100% comfortable with the centre and the carers
The centre needs to have high hygiene standards and a program of activities that appeal to your child and your parenting style. Ask as many questions as you can to ensure you feel 100% comfortable with the centre, its carers and the food they provide your child with. Ask to sit in on a session so you can see the carers in action. Ask around to find a centre that you are happy with and make sure you google the centre to read all the reviews available.
You are never going to feel comfortable sending your child if you are not comfortable with the centre. Try and think about whether you would be happy to spend your days there.
3. Start the transition to care early
Try and start your child at the centre at least one month prior to returning to work. Returning to work is already a huge transition for yourself and your child; you don't need to be doing both on the same day. It also allows for a longer orientation time if your child needs it and you can pick them up early if your child needs.
Try and ensure you have a few shorter orientation days prior to sending your child for a full day.
4. Talk to your child about what is going to happen
At least a month prior to your child starting at child care start talking to them about going, and all the fun things they will do there. Talk to them about the fact that mummy always comes back. There is a great book called ‘Owl Babies’ which is all about a Mama Owl who leaves her babies but always comes home. Read this to them and talk about the fact that you always come back.
It can also be great to use a couple of toys to show your child through play. Ie. ‘teddy’ is off to childcare and mummy is going to work today and now she is coming home to pick teddy up.
5. Try to keep their days consistent
Any childcare worker will tell you it is easier for the child if the days are consistent and at least two in a row. This helps the child to know what day it is each week and when Mama or Dada are coming back to pick them up.
6. Expect your child to get sick quite often
Your child will suddenly be introduced to an array of other children and therefore colds and my personal favourite (NOT) diseases like hand-foot-and-mouth and viruses like gastro. Have a plan in place for when your child gets sick. Talk to your boss about changing the days you work if your little one comes down with something, or take it in turns with your partner to take carer's leave or have the grandparents on standby etc.