Childcare Transitions

At one point or another, every child I’ve ever watched has had a “first day” and each day is unique.

In the last two months, I’ve had the privilege of adding two new clients.  The first was an older infant who has been in daycare almost from the start and the second is a little boy who will be 2 in about a week.  He has been in childcare in the past, but it has been months.  His mother has been unemployed for awhile and just started a new job this week.

The transition for the infant was seamless.  She’s fairly easy going (although not a great sleeper yet) and has been in the care of babysitters of daycare providers continually since she was 8 weeks old.  Being in unfamiliar areas is normal for her.

I knew the little boy would have a more challenging transition.  I expect that it may take a full 6 weeks for him to adjust but it was clear today that he is making good progress.

When children have a hard time transitioning from the care of a parent to a babysitter or daycare provider, one of the things I have learned is that a quick drop-off is the best for all parties involved.  Parents who linger, continually trying to reassure a teary-eyed child only add to the emotions because it is abundantly clear they don’t want to leave, either.

If your child is unhappy about your leaving, there are some things you can do to help out.  First, before the first drop off tell your child when you’ll be back to pick them up.  Time has little meaning, but saying things like, “I’ll be back to pick you up after naptime” can be a big help.  Don’t repeat the message; once is enough.  Then give your child a firm hug and/or kiss, then leave.  If the child tries to follow you, allow the new caregiver to pick him or her up and soothe them.  Do not turn back around for another quick goodbye or to reassure because it makes the transition harder.

As a care provider, there are a few things I’ve learned that I can do to help with the transition, too.  The first is to immediately engage the child in his or her favorite activity.  Whether it’s playing with trains, singing time, or a trip to the park–DO something engaging.

Some children will continue to cry or whimper for hours on end which can be frustrating.  Today was the third day and although he went whimper free for an hour yesterday, he spent the other three hours whining.  I didn’t want that to become his standard mode of operation.  I do not allow whining in my house so I stepped up my game.  We left for the park just as soon as all the children for the morning were here.  Before leaving I packed snacks and drinks, knowing we’d stay at the park as long as we reasonably could.

The walk to the park was slow, but once we sat down for a quick snack, the little boy’s face began to light up.  We then played.  I took advantage of the empty playground and left the babies in the double stroller and jumped onto the play equipment and played with the children, rather just sitting on the bench and watching them or standing by to catch them if they fell off one of the climbing walls.  He thought my shenanigans on the zip beam were hilarious and motioned for a turn. 

Everything was going smoothly and it was getting to be naptime for the babies so we headed home.  As we approached my door he began to whine again.  We entered the house and I left the stroller in the entryway, placed the little boy on the bottom step, put my finger gently on his lips and told him firmly that whining is not allowed in my house and he was to stay on the step until he stopped whining.

It took about fifteen minutes, with a finger-in-the-lips repeat every 2 or 3, until he understood that I meant business.  At that point I followed my guy.  I *knew* that if I just had him play he’d start whining again.  So instead, it took his diaper off and placed him on the potty.  He stayed there until he peed, about a half an hour.  I sat right next to him and the babies tried to climb all over him, so he wasn’t just sitting in a corner (he was actually right in the middle of the playroom).

When he peed I quietly got up, grabbed his diaper, then put a huge grin on my face and used my excited voice to tell him he had done a good job going pee on the potty.  He seemed rather underwhelmed, but that’s alright.  His real feelings were revealed when his mother arrived about 10 minutes later.

When she came in, he opened up again and started chatting.  There was no whining or crying like the two previous days and he even kept waiving and saying “Good bye!” as she walked out the door.  It made me feel good to know that my “tough” discipline with requiring him to sit on the steps until he could stop whining and then the time on the potty were rewarded with such a warm goodbye.

I can only hope that in the next few days, each drop-off transition will be smoother and quicker.  If the mother follows my advice about the quick separation, it should be.

*fingers crossed* Here’s hoping!!

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