If it’s your first baby (even if it’s not), I’m not sure anyone ever feels ready to put their little one in childcare when it’s time to go back to work. Often it’s tears at drop off for both mother and child, which can go on for weeks, and I’ve seen it break even the toughest of parents. Watching so many families struggle with this I’ve managed to pick up a number of little tips and tricks that make it a little gentler…..on both of you 😉
1. Start early: Research shows that separation anxiety typically starts between 9 and 12 months. I’ve seen a lot of parents wait until the 2 year mark before they put they feel ready to put their child in childcare and I can tell you that by that stage you really are fighting an uphill battle if your bub is already a little on the clingy side. If it’s an option for you, the smoothest transitions tend to happen if you start around the 6 month mark, even if it’s only a day or two a week.
2. Start before you’re due back at work: Starting with childcare a couple of weeks before you’re due back enables you to ease into things and you’re readily available if they need to call you in from home.
3. Orientation sessions: Not sure it was even offered when my son started childcare – certainly don’t remember it – but the good centres these days will all offer a couple of orientation sessions where you can come in, play in the room, get your baby used to the educators, pop out for a coffee, and generally grow your comfort levels, so that Day 1 isn’t such an anxious time.
4. Do more than 1 day a week, at least to begin with. I’ve seen so many parents who say, “I’ll just start with one day a week” and wonder why it takes forever for their baby to settle in. Most childcare centres will recommend a minimum of 2 days a week and some centres offer half days now, so perhaps breaking it up into 2-3 half days per week is the solution for you, otherwise, by the time the following week’s session rolls around you’re right back at square 1.
5. Prepare yourself for some tears. To be honest, it’s rare for a child to settle in immediately no matter how good the centre, wave you goodbye and never look back. No one is ever as good as Mum! In some cases, especially if you’re only going once a week, it can take a good 10 weeks before you turn a corner and find the drop off easy. You’ll often find Day 1 is fairly painless, as everything is new, but Day 2 can be a whole ‘nother story as they realise by then that you’re leaving. On the positive side, your baby getting upset at drop off will actually help them settle in as they’ll naturally bond with the educator they feel most comfortable with.
6. Distractions work wonders if your child is a bit older. I moved my son to a new childcare when he was 3 years old and it was meltdown central for a while there. Then I discovered that if I packed up his breakfast, which he normally would have eaten at home, and took it in with me to the centre that he thought that was quite novel and sat quietly to eat it while the other children played and I could quietly disappear.
7. Quid pro quo. Again if they’re a bit older, I found reasoning with Oliver worked quite well, along the lines of “Now, when we get to daycare today you can show me 3 things before I go to work.” Oliver, “5 things”, Me, “4 things”. Oliver, “Okaaaaay” and because it was pre-arranged before we were in the foreign environment he was quite accepting of me leaving after he’d ticked off showing me his 4 things.
8. Go early. If you have 10 spare minutes up your sleeve it’s far more relaxing to sit and play for a little while than it is to pry your child off you while he/she is wailing in distress. Typically the day you go early is the day your bub waves you goodbye without a care in the world and the day you’re running late is the day they’ll have a meltdown….sorry, I have no solution for this.
9. And lastly, if you happen to be near a BubDesk centre and your job/business can afford you some flexibility, why not work onsite for the first few days? By combining childcare and workspace under one roof you’ll find you’re close enough for cuddles or feeds and far enough away that you can work productively while someone else is caring for your child. Win-Win!
If you’d like to register for an upcoming BubDesk tour at your nearest centre it’s as easy as completing the registration form below with your preferred time. Alternatively you might find there’s a group tour on our Facebook page you can join.