St. Louis, MO

Leaving Your Child at a New Childcare Center

I was shopping yesterday, and met a young woman who was obviously worrying and upset. She had left her baby for the first time at a childcare center. Her child is nine months old, and she said, “I am sure he is okay. He went right into the caregiver’s arms”. Between her emotional response and her worried look, I am not sure she fully believed it. The hours were slowly going by at work.

I believe parents are too hard on themselves. Leaving your child for the first time is difficult! A quality childcare program will have the director or teacher calling you after about an hour. Early childhood people should and frequently do know that the whole family is adjusting to the childcare center. Parents do visit and observe classrooms prior to the first day, and they do complete all of the forms and paperwork. Somehow that does not offset parents’ trauma. Ideally, parents would do all of that and leave the child for shorter periods of time, gradually increasing to a full day. And what are parents to do when the child begins crying in the car or pulling into the center parking lot? Leave with the child crying? This crying scenario does happen, and it is my experience that the child stops crying before mom or dad can drive to work. So, phone calls are important.

By the end of the week, all is going well. No tears, and parents think ‘we have this thing licked’. However a weekend comes, the routine is disrupted and the newness of the teachers and center is there on Monday. Consistent attendance is important. Even if parents are going to bring the child three days a week, during the separation adjustment, I have always recommended several weeks of coming every day and then adjusting the schedule.

Another crying time maybe at the end of the day, when the parent arrives to pick the child up for the evening. Even if the child has not cried all day, the tension of everything being new may result in crying when the child sees the parent.

Separation is a good thing for children and parents. Parents are widening the child’s experiences and adding opportunities for new relationships, both with adults and other children. Parents are fulfilling their work and personal/professional growth needs as well.

Please look at my previous blogs for more ideas/tips about leaving children in a new center.


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