Will it soon be your child’s first introduction to the world of daycare? To make this entry go as smooth as possible, here are a few tips that will make your life easier.

You are on maternity leave, but something is already preoccupying you: it will soon be your child’s first introduction to the world of daycare. As a parent, it worries you, and it’s normal. This next step will shake up both you and your baby and will make you go through many emotions.

Preparing the first ‘back to school’

Your little one will start daycare in a couple of days, weeks or months. For your child, it will be a great experience, filled with excitement and various stimuli: an environment filled with colours, odours and new sounds, creating a bond with a new daycare teacher, and learning to cope with other children with whom he'll have to share the daycare teacher’s time and attention.

It will be quite an adjustment for you as well. Your baby, whom you’ve been protecting since birth, will now enter into the ‘real’ world. You will have to learn to let go and trust that someone else can take good care of him. You will have to accept that things may be done differently than how you would do them. That's a lot of "letting go", right?

You’ve now found the perfect daycare for your little angel. You’ve visited the place with your child before the first day so he could adapt to the environment in your presence. You’ve asked all the questions that were bothering you, prepared and name-tagged all your child’s material and have filled out all the necessary information about your child’s life habits. The adventure can now begin!

Go slowly

Know that a slow and gradual integration will allow your child to get used to this new situation calmly. Remember that in Early Childhood Centers, daycares and family daycare settings, if the child stays for 4 hours daily, it's enough to book a place in daycare. Since younger children’s long-term memory isn’t well developed, it is best to favour close days (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, for example) rather than days apart (Monday, Wednesday, Friday). The ‘ideal’ five days integration process should take 4 to 6 weeks.

D-day

From the moment your child wakes up, he will feel like the routine is turned upside down. Mommy seems more in a hurry and more nervous too. She comes and goes, prepares a bag and doesn’t sit down to have her breakfast. Something is going on. Talk to your child. Explain what is going on and how the day will unravel, even if he is only a couple of months old. It’s amazing how soothing the sound of your voice is to him...and talking will help you get a hold on this new reality.

Cries and a hard separation

During the first few days of daycare, your child may cry (and you too!) and it's normal. Both of you will go through some nerve-racking moments. Whether you are home or at work, your heart probably won’t be in it. Try to distract yourself and enjoy this childfree time to do activities that you usually enjoy. Keep calm by calling the daycare. Don’t worry! The daycare workers are used to having worried parents call to check up on their child’s adjustment.

Your child may also have a great first and second day in daycare ―he is exploring and is curious about his surroundings― and then it becomes more difficult after a couple of days. The child realizes that these new surroundings are here to stay and that mommy isn’t near him anymore. Fear of abandonment now takes over curiosity. Even if this situation is hard on you, be reassuring. Your child feels your emotions, positive and negative! Even if your child doesn’t fully understand what you are saying, talk to him about daycare and the fun things he can do there. You can even talk about what you’ll do during the day. Tell him that you will come back to get him and give him references of time (before lunch, after naptime, etc.). Talk to the daycare worker in front of your child. It will show him the trust you have in the daycare worker, and will also reassure you on the bond being created between your child and the person taking care of him.

Finally, your child could cry when he sees you again at the end of the day. He's expressing what he feels, and that’s healthy. Tell him that you understand and put into words his emotions ("You were sad to see that mommy wasn’t there anymore, but you see, I came back. I missed you too!"). At home, talk about daycare. Display his drawings, crafts, other masterpieces and pictures of him with his daycare teacher. Most importantly, tell him how proud you are of him!

Eventually, the daycare teacher will become someone important and her presence will be enough to comfort your child. It is with pride, and a little pinch to the heart, that you will see your little one leave you in the morning with a smile on his face and join his friends in daycare.

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