It’s scary. In fact, on the first day, many parents sit in their cars and cry. Handing your child over to another person, often someone you don’t yet know well, is frightening and sometimes heartbreaking.
While I spent over ten years as a daycare provider, both in a centre and in my home, I have also been the parent dropping my child off and walking away from him. It broke my heart at first too. The good news is, as hard as it is in the beginning, daycare is a great for kids and for parents. To put your mind at ease, I’m going to let you in on the “secrets of the trade” - things many parents have wondered and maybe were too hesitant to ask – and offer some tips on how to make daycare great for everyone.
Whether it’s home care, care in a centre, home with a parent, or any combination thereof, if it is quality care, children do well. Do what works best for your family. The provider you choose matters – the type of care you choose matters far less.
I have never, not once, not ever cared for a child who did not eventually become comfortable. How long it takes for that to happen depends on a lot of factors. Some kids walk in like they live there and never look back. For others, it can take even a month. Kids who are in full-time care tend to settle in sooner than kids in part-time care. The second day is almost always harder than the first. But these are generalizations. What it comes down to is that in time, they will become comfortable.
When your provider says your child stops crying and is happy as soon as you go, they are telling the truth. Some children are genuinely upset at first. Others make it part of their morning routine. Sometimes it’s an emotional release, and sometimes it’s a last-ditch attempt to get you to stay, but frequently children will cry until the door closes, then happily go off to play.
Crying at drop-off is not always an indication your child doesn’t like it there, or that the care is poor. Of course, if your radar is going off that something isn’t right, you should absolutely look into it further – but if you have no concerns otherwise, sometimes that cry is just part of their morning. The best way to handle a crying drop-off is to give a quick hug, say goodbye, offer reassurance that you will be back, and leave quickly. If your child needs some extra reassurance, your provider knows what to do. (Snuggles and I Spy out the window was my usual go-to.)
A good quality provider will never mind this. It will put your mind at ease to see that things are going well, even when your presence isn’t expected. You don’t need to sit across the street with binoculars. Simply come early for your child once in a while if you can manage it. Just make sure you are able to take your child with you when you do. Popping in and leaving without them is hard on a kid!
It’s a really tough job, usually with low pay. No caregiver worth their salt would ever hold it against your child if you treat them poorly, but as human beings, we feel it deeply when you abuse us or our services. Being nice to us will not get us to treat your child better – we will treat your child well no matter what – but it does make us feel good to be appreciated and valued.
With multiple children to care for, your child won’t be able to get the proper care and rest they need when they are sick, and they put the other children at risk as well. And please, no matter what, NEVER medicate your child to reduce a fever then drop them off at daycare. This is not only unethical, it is potentially dangerous for us to not know your child is ill and has been medicated.
After the new-to-daycare jitters wear off, there is a temptation to bring your child in even when you have a day off just to have a day to yourself. Go ahead and give in to that temptation if you have it. Believe me, even as a provider, you bet once in a while I still brought my kid in when I had a day off. It’s hard being a working parent, and needing some you-time is perfectly understandable. So, no guilt!
Sometimes it just isn’t working. It isn’t even always about poor care, it’s about fit. Different providers will provide different care, just as parents will parent differently, and it doesn’t mean one way is better than another, it’s about what meshes with your values and your needs. If you have concerns about a staff member in a centre, absolutely talk to the supervisor of the centre. Mistreatment in daycare, in centres and at home, is rare, but if you suspect it, definitely call proper channels to report it . But almost all of the time, it simply comes down to good care that isn’t the right fit.
We fall in love with your children. My first group of kids is now in university and I still think about them and wonder what they are up to. I’m thirty-eight, and my own home care provider from when I was little is still very much a part of my life. We genuinely care about them and want was is best for them. We worry about them when they are sick, and we get excited for their accomplishments. Even the ones who drive us crazy (and yes, some do!) are near and dear to our hearts.
Of course, if you ever have questions, talk to your provider! Not even just about the daycare. I can’t tell you how many shoulders I have offered to overwhelmed parents, or times I have given objective advice. We care about you too! You’re doing great, and so is your little one. They are socializing. They are learning. They are making friends, they are making messes, and they are making memories.