Toddlers are notorious for resisting change, and parents may worry their kids won’t adjust or develop a strong relationship with the new caregiver.
The fact is change happens, but as long as parents prepare their kids for a new caregiver, or teacher or coach – whatever the case may be – they will succeed. Children are resilient.
“The only constant in life is change, but if parents put up some buffering, their kids will thrive,” said Dr. Geoffrey Putt, a child psychologist and director of outpatient therapy services at Akron Children’s. “Parents get stressed about how the childcare transition will affect their child, but as long as they’re providing a positive environment, their child will bloom wherever he is.”
He offers 5 ways you can set your kids up for success and ease the childcare transition for them – and you.
1. Alert him of the change ahead of time.
Talk to your child about the transition a few days beforehand to help him grasp what’s happening and how to handle change. Hearing similar stories or experiences can help calm his nerves.
Dr. Putt suggests parents use their child’s own life.
“‘Remember when we started at Kiddie U and you were scared and didn’t know anyone? Now, you’re crying because you’re leaving,'” he said. “Remind them that they did have fear, but it all worked out.”
You could also use your life as an example. You could say, “‘Mommy was nervous about starting her new job, too.'” Let them know even grownups have the same fears and it’s okay.
2. Ask your child’s former caregiver to jot down some notes about your child to share with his new caregiver.
This may include his daily schedule, how to comfort him, or favorite toys and activities.
“Anytime you can give a snapshot of your child, whether he’s shy, bossy or easily over stimulated, it can be helpful for any caregiver,” said Dr. Putt.
Also, be sure to identify his needs. Your child may need to work on his independent skills, wiping after using the bathroom or tying his shoes. Knowing ahead of time can make a caregiver’s life much easier.
3. Make sure your child gets the chance to say goodbye to her caregivers and the other kids.
Your child could write a note or draw a picture for her teacher as a way to say goodbye. Or you can get a present for the teacher, such as a gift card or flowers, as a thank you.
Also, you could take a picture of the teacher, the room, playground and her friends so your child can remember her experiences there and take them with her.
4. Do a test run.
Take your child to the new childcare center before the actual transition to meet her new caregiver and explore her new surroundings. It could be a simple walk-through or coming in for a meal with the caregiver and other children.
Either way, it will give you something to talk about and explain the transition to your child. Also, giving him the ability to visualize his new environment and discuss his schedule will help your child acclimate.
“The more familiar he is with the new place, the less overwhelming it will be for him,” said Dr. Putt. “If he asks you a question, like ‘Where’s the bathroom?’, you can point it out and your child can visualize it. That’s a great peace of mind for a child.”
5. Stick to your routine.
Now is not the time to change your morning routine. Try and keep everything the same for your child so she only has one change to deal with.
“Predictability is comfort,” said Dr. Putt. “It’s true for everything, from mealtime to discipline.”
The more consistent you can make your child’s life, the easier it will be for him. Then, when there’s a change, she has comfort in the predictability of her routine to fall back on.
An opportunity to improve
Use the childcare transition as an opportunity to improve your child’s care. Parents can assess what they liked and didn’t like about a previous caregiver or center and take the opportunity to make the next one better for their kids.
Maybe you didn’t like that visitors didn’t have to sign in and you’d like to look for better security. Or, maybe your child fell and the caregiver didn’t make a big deal out of it. You can ask the new childcare center about their procedures for injuries.
“Sometimes having those experiences, things that went well and those that didn’t, allows parents to use them to assess a new place,” said Dr. Putt. “Go in to the new place armed with a checklist of what you’re looking for and what you didn’t like.”