Child Care: Help Your Child Adjust

Going to day care for the first time can be hard for your child and maybe even for you. Your child will be in a strange place, with new faces and new routines to get used to. Some children may take longer than others to adjust. These tips can help you and your child adjust.

Infant/Toddler (0 to 3 years)

  • Let your child get used to being with other people. Spend time with your friends. Take your child places where there are other children and adults.
  • Get your child used to someone else taking care of him for 10 to 15 minutes while you go outside or into another room.
  • Next, leave your home for short periods of time. Slowly build up to the amount of time you are away from your child.
  • Set a bedtime routine so that your child gets enough sleep, yet is ready to go in the mornings. Give your child a healthy breakfast each morning.
  • If your child will be cared for outside the home, visit ahead of time with your child. Comfort your child by taking along a toy or blanket that your child likes. Stay with your child part or all of the first day.

Preschool age (3 to 6 years)

  • Get to know the people who will take care of your child before your child starts the program. This helps you answer your child’s questions.
  • Visit the home or center with your child ahead of time. Let your child get to know the new place by looking around and then doing things at his or her own pace.
  • Your child may wish to take along a favorite toy or stuffed animal for comfort.
  • Tell your child where you will be and what you will be doing while your child is busy in day care.
  • Let your child know who will pick him up and when. This keeps your child from being scared about being left alone.
  • Act calm even if you feel worried. If you seem calm, it will reassure your child.
  • At the day care home or center, always say goodbye to your child. Do not try to sneak away while your child is busy. Your child will learn not to trust you if you do. Make your good-byes short and cheerful.
  • Expect tears at first. It is normal for your child to burst into tears when you leave or return.
  • Talk to the person who will take care of your child about how you can both help your child adjust.
  • Allow plenty of time for your child to get used to the new routine. If your child is still unhappy after a month or so, you may need to look at other options.
  • Read books with your child about children who go to child care or nursery school. This can help you learn about your child’s feelings and fears. It also helps your child know what to expect.
  • Each day, ask your child about his day. Talk about what was good and what was bad or scary.
  • Try not to make too big a fuss over your child’s first day.
  • Even after being in child care or preschool for a while, a child may sometimes not want to go. A small change in the daily routine may help. One way to do this is to have the other parent take your child to child care for a while. You could also plan a special treat at the end of the day. If your child still has problems, talk to the person who takes care of your child.
  • Make surprise visits from time to time to make sure that you are happy with the way your child is being taken care of.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-01-05
Last reviewed: 2013-09-23
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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