What can I do to make the transition to childcare easier for all of us?
Childcare is a reality for many families. In-home day care, centre-based care, care provided by family or friends, occasional, part time, long day care or full time care are all variations on a theme.
And although the specifics can vary enormously, there are some universal truths when it comes to making the childcare adjustment for parents and their children.
Make informed decisions about your choice of childcare
- Do your research and ask other parents with young children why and what choices they made. Speak with your partner about what you both see as important for you and your child.
- Be positive about the benefits of childcare. No matter what the reasons, feeling negative about childcare will just make the process a chore.
- Follow your gut feelings if you have them. Many parents just get a “sense” of what’s right from doing a childcare or in-home day care tour. Look at the interaction between the carer and the child/ren and if the children seem happy and well cared for. Gauge how welcome you feel and speak with the director and the carers. We make decisions not just with our head but our heart too.
- If your child is old enough, ask them what they’d like. Talk with them about childcare, read books together and answer their questions honestly. Be mindful of your own emotions if you’re feeling anxious. Children are masters of picking up on their parent’s feelings.
- Include Government based sources of information in your research. These need to be non-biased and evidence based. Check here as well as here for more information.
- Childcare spaces can be very limited, especially for babies and toddlers. You may want to put your child’s name down for several centres to boost your chances for preferred starting dates.
- Be prepared to forgo one or more booking fees for the sake of your own peace of mind.
- Ensure all required details are filled out on your paperwork and check they’ve been received. Delays and missed spots can happen because of small errors.
- Make sure you keep your details updated if the days/times you need for childcare change.
Take time to adjust
- Where possible, build up the time you and your child are apart and support the relationship building with their new caregiver. Be sensitive to your child’s responses to changes and expect some initial separation anxiety, for both of you.
- Keep open lines of communication between yourself and the carer. This is a really important way to ensure your child’s needs are being considered and the carer is feeling listened to.
- Ensure your contact details are always kept up to date and provide alternatives for times when you may be out of reach.
Prioritise about what’s really important
- Safety, hygiene and wellness policies are non-negotiables when it comes to childcare. But location, cost, size and carer/child ratio are all factors which rate differently for individual families.
- Make a list of what’s essential to you and what you’re willing to be more flexible about.
- Try not to compare your choices with other parents. Only you and your partner can know what’s right for your own family.
Prepare to learn
- Be open to suggestions and input from other people who’ve been there and done that. Experienced parents can have excellent insights and points of view which are worth listening to.
- It can be really hard getting feedback from others about our children, especially if it’s not exactly positive. It’s within a parent’s role description to love their children unconditionally, not their carers. So be open to constructive suggestions from your child’s carer and try not to be too defensive, especially if it’s offered in a reasonable way.
- Check the qualifications of your child’s carers. Expert carers take pride in their qualifications and training. Become familiar with the different levels of registration and accreditation required to care for children in a professional capacity.
- Know when to make alternative care plans. Childcare arrangements are not set in stone - there is always some flexibility and options to change if necessary. It’s OK for you to change your mind if you and your child are just not happy with how their childcare is working out.
- Have a designated bag for childcare and check it regularly. You’d be surprised what can find its way home.
- Keep on rotation plenty of clothes, nappies, toiletries and other necessities which your child may need. Pack plenty of spares, especially during the toilet training months and summer when water play means lots of wet clothing.
- Get into the habit of packing the bag the night before. Avoid last minute chaos by creating routines which support you all getting out of the house on time.
Make home time different to day-care
- Although young children thrive on routine and predictability, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to replicate a typical childcare pattern. Children also learn from differences in caregiving – it helps to build their resilience.
- Allow for different rules at home. Running a childcare centre is a business, domestic life is not. Children need to feel they can relax and give into their natural impulsiveness and relative freedom when they’re home.
- Remember, your child may have one or more carers but no one can take your place. Really value your unique relationship with your child; no-one can replace you.
Five top tips for childcare
- Investigate what childcare rebates you may be eligible for.
- Invest in a really good hat for your child when they’re at childcare. Caps, small brimmed hats and hats which are too small may tick the yes box for hat wearing but they’re useless when it comes to sun protection. A wide brimmed hat which casts a shadow onto your child’s entire face is ideal.
- Don’t expect your child’s carer to look after them in exactly the same way as you do. There are bound to be differences, so decide on what’s going well and communicate clearly what’s not.
- Expect some changes in your child’s sleeping, eating and behaviour when they start childcare. All of these areas often reflect other changes (big and small) going on in a young child’s life.
- Give plenty of time (but not too much) for drop-offs. Taking their bag to the right spot, speaking with the carer, saying goodbye and making the break are all best managed in a calm way. Settle your child in as best you can and then confidently leave. Ring to check how they are if you want to.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jane Barry has qualifications in general, paediatric, immunisation, midwifery and child health nursing. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Applied Science (Nursing) and has almost 30 years specialist experience in child health nursing. She is a member of a number of professionally affiliated organisations including AHPRA, The Australasian Medical Writer’s Association, Health Writer Hub and Australian College of Children and Young People’s Nurses.