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FIRST DAY JITTERS
Firsts are hard. First steps, first pets, first sleepover, first crushes.
First day of daycare…With all endings come beginnings. With the school year ending, some of you will be taking your children to daycare for the first time.
Whether it be the first day ever in any daycare or a new daycare after switching from another, those first few days are tough. This goes for parents, children, and YOU: the teacher. There are several ways that you can assist in the transition process for everyone. To make a smooth transition, preparation is key. Unfortunately, not all parents know this and it is hard to prepare for something that is already happening. So here are some tips to make the first day (or days) easier for everyone.
- Remember that at first, you are a stranger. It is nearly unbearable for some parents to leave their children with someone that they don’t know. Parents go to work and sometimes cry just as much, if not more than their child. It’s important that you encourage parents to make the drop-off as quick and positive as possible. Remind the child that their grown-up will be back in just a few hours and now it is time to play!
- When the family comes to tour and sign their child up for attending your center, it is a good idea to have some material, like a brochure with tips on how to make the transition into daycare easier. This brochure could include information like how to encourage families to practice separation from their child in the days leading to their first day. Whether it be a night with a babysitter while they go out for an hour or two, a playdate at the park or library, or something like swim lessons or playing a sport. Things like these help the child learn that their grown-up will always come back or is very near. It is also good for them to be around other children prior to daycare because it helps their social skills, like sharing. It would also be beneficial to allow the child to come in to take a tour or even to stay for just an hour or so before the first day.
- On the first day, show the child around their new classroom and introduce them to their new, soon-to-be friends. There are so many games and songs that are perfect for this. At the start of their day, tell them about your daily classroom schedule and about how they will have so much fun painting, playing with blocks and musical instruments, playing dress-up, and climbing outside on the playground. It is always best to put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Would you want to walk into a new job and not know the job description? The ability to know what is next can be comforting.
- Let the child know that it is okay to feel sad or nervous. Say things like, “I can see that you are nervous. What can I do to make you feel more comfortable?” Or “I know it is sad when you are away from Mommy, she misses you too. She will be so happy to see you when she gets here later!”
- Request that the child’s family brings in a family picture to hang in the room or near the child’s cubby. This gives the child the feeling of keeping in touch while their grown-up is away. Another idea is to encourage the child to draw a picture of their family or for their family. They will be excited to give it to them when they come at pick-up time. We have all done something for the first time and after being nervous or dreading it, actually ended up enjoying it, right? Children sometimes don’t have the ability to recognize that. Acknowledge the fact that you are being trusted with someone’s child, the most important person in their world. By preparing the family and easing the child into the action and fun-filled days ahead, you are supporting their confidence and ability to adapt.