Dad takes Toddler Zap to daycare. Toddler Zap often gets upset when she is left there, so Dad thinks it might be better to sneak out without Toddler Zap seeing him go. But Toddler Zap does see him leaving, and gets very upset. Dad explains to her that he has to go to work but will return right after work to pick her up and take her home. Toddler Zap is still sad, but with the support of her caregiver she waves goodbye to Dad and goes to play with her friends.
Leaving a child with a caregiver on a regular basis - whether it's at a neighbour's or in daycare - can be difficult for both the parent and the child. He feels safest with you and may protest when you go. Or he may be upset because he's afraid you'll never come back. It takes time to learn that loved ones will return. It also takes time to get used to you not being there. Each child will deal with these things differently, in his own time.
It's a good idea to start leaving your child with the new caregiver for just short times for a couple of weeks before you need full-time care. Stay with your child and the caregiver for a little while each day, for the first few days, to help your child adjust. This also lets you learn more about daycare. Stay a little less time each day.
When you must leave your child, don't sneak away. (Even at home, a young child can get upset if a parent suddenly disappears into another part of the house.) Explain to the child that you are going and tell her when you will be back. She may still get a bit upset, but not as much - and it will get easier as she learns to trust that you will be back. You shouldn't look anxious or sad about leaving her - that could upset your child. And once you've left, it's best not to go back in (for instance, because you forgot to tell the caregiver something), because that can be confusing for your child.
On a regular basis, talk to the caregiver about your child's routine, likes and dislikes, any fears, how your child is behaving, the kinds of activities he takes part in, any problems, and so on. If you're concerned about his behaviour at home, talk about that, too.
Choosing your caregiving situation carefully will help ease your mind , knowing that she is in good hands and playing with other children. Every babysitter, nanny or childcare centre has to be checked out. Don't rely on a licence or certificate. Make an appointment, so someone has time to talk with you. Ask about the staff, such as how long they've been there - if it's a good place, people tend to stay. Ask about the daily routine, how they handle crying, tantrums, naps, exercise, health problems and so on. Check references.
You can tell if it's good quality child care if there is warmth and caring between the caregivers and the children . A small group size is best, with no more than about five children per caregiver (three if the children are 18 months or younger). Good centres likely have long waiting lists, so plan ahead.
Every so often, drop in to the caregiving location unannounced, to see how things are going. Discuss your child with the caregiver, and also pay attention to what your child says about the caregiver. Watch for any changes in behaviour, too.
Food for Thought:
- What do you do when your child is upset when you have to leave her with someone else?
- How do you choose quality caregiving? What questions should you ask?
- What can you do to relieve your anxiety about leaving your child at daycare?