The Day Shift: Starting Childcare

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One of the hardest things for any parent is starting childcare. We were lucky enough to find an affordable nanny for Henry in New York that we shared with a few other moms, and the two of them developed a real bond that was one of the hardest things to give up when we moved across the country. Now that we're in a very different kind of community, and the kid is creeping up on two years old, we decided it was time to make the transition into daycare. Obviously, this carries with it a ton of changes. While the sprout was used to being with one other kid all day, now he's with a half-dozen. I've been hanging out at the daycare we picked for the first couple days and here's what I've found has helped him adjust:
  • Be there, but don't hover. I'm writing this from the lobby on my laptop. It's separated from the area all the kids are in by a baby gate. A few times a day, Henry will come over sad about something (bonked on the head, et cetera) and I'll pick him up, give him a hug, and put him back inside. I don't go in the space at all, and even if I hear he's upset, I don't act unless he comes to me. The first day, he came over about five times in four hours. Today, he hasn't come over at all. Just knowing that a familiar comfort is available is enough, even if they don't need it.
  • Play with the other kids as if they are already friends. I've read books, helped with puzzles, and got other kids dressed to go outside, all with Henry watching. Seeing his parents treat these strange kids the same way they treat him, with love and compassion, helps him understand that they're all a group. He now brings other kids their shoes and helps them himself.
  • Talk about what he did on the ride home. He's getting more and more verbal, but it's not quite conversational yet. It doesn't hurt to keep the rhythms up, though, so on the car ride home I run through his day in words, asking him questions - "Did you play with the Play-Dough this morning? Was it fun? I heard you singing the ABC song with everybody - do you want to sing it with Papa?" It helps him feel like the day care is actually a part of his life that Mama and Papa know about, not a place we drop him off and forget about.
How did you help your kid adjust to day care? Let me know in the comments.

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