It’s still smoking hot in Toronto, but back to school season and beautiful fall colours, are quickly approaching. While for some it’s truly ‘back to school’, for many others this will be a time of firsts and new beginnings. Whether it’s daycare for the first time, a new care provider or a brand new setting, there are ways you can help make the transition easier for the whole family.
Six things you can do to ease the transition to daycare
If you’re happy and you know it….so will they! Even at a few months old, infants pick up on your emotions, so channel your best optimism to help set the mood. Know that it’s typical for the little (and big) kids to get upset during times of big change – empathize and help them work through their emotions, while using your words, tone and gestures to show them that this new beginning is worth ‘clapping their hands’ about.
Name people and experiences
To the best of your knowledge, use names of teachers and kids as much as possible with your child while also naming activities they may experience. In the days leading up to daycare or school, build up the excitement, “You’re going to get to meet your new teacher, Julia, and do art with her!”, and after the day “Did you have fun playing blocks with Noah at school today?” Even if your little one is too young to answer back, this can help them become familiar with their new community and connect the experience back to home as well.
Read relevant books
Stories help us relate, connect and get familiarized with all kinds of scenarios. Visit any one of the Toronto public libraries or local bookstore to pick up an age appropriate book about daycare or school. As you read the story, stop to talk about the parts that will be relatable to for your little one and even reference the characters as you get ready for the day. “You get to meet your new teacher and make friends just like…(Pete the Cat, Berenstain Bears etc)”
Connect with the community
This one is for YOU and your little one. Try to connect with families, online or in person, who have either been at your childcare location previously, are there now or are just starting. Try posting in a local moms group or asking parents for their email or numbers at pick up / drop off. Start conversations with them or the administrators to help ensure you have the information you need to feel good about where your child will be spending their time.
Routine can be really helpful during times of change. On school days try to be consistent with the process of getting out the door, so your little ones knows what to expect next. You can also create routine through songs or phrases that use on the way to or at drop off, so that even when it’s quick drop off (recommended!), there’s still consistency and security in that moment. We use this simple one at drop off: “See you later alligator! Papa will pick you up today after your nap.”
Send a familiar item with your child
Whether it’s a favourite lovey, blanket or book – let your little one bring this with them as needed to feel comfortable. Let the care provider or teacher know, and depending on the child’s age you may need to help set expectations on whether they get it all day, at nap etc. This small comfort from home can make all the difference during the early days of transition.
Change in life is inevitable, and just know that every child and their experience with change will be different. Trust your child will be able to adapt even if it takes time, keep communicating with your little ones and community to support each other and above all else – listen to your gut and do what feels right for you and your little one to make it work.
Guest post by Renee Janzen