Sending your child to daycare for the first time is a stressful event for new parents, but how does your toddler feel about the experience? Are their stress levels too high for their age? What are some ways of making daycare less stressful for your toddler?
Even though the separation from your child can be difficult, sending them to early-learning opportunities will help them excel later in life. Children who are enrolled in high-quality child care and early-learning education opportunities develop stronger language, math, and social skills they will need in school.
Leaving your child’s development in someone else’s hands may not be your favorite idea. But this should be an exciting experience for your child and be a great step in their emotional development.
Signs Your Toddler Is Stressed
It may take as long as six months for your child to fully acclimate to daycare. If this new experience is causing your child stress, they could express that emotion in various ways.
Some signs your toddler is stressed could include:
- Increase crying or emotional outbursts
- Changes in their regular sleep or eating habits
- Development regressions like returning to thumb-sucking
- Headaches or stomach aches
- Changes in bowel movements
- Experiencing nightmares
- Emotional changes like being withdrawn, sad, or overly clingy
Find a Great Daycare
Finding a high-quality daycare center that both you and your child feel comfortable with will help ease their transition and first-day anxiety. Do your due diligence by looking into different daycare options in your area before signing up. You’re trusting your child’s development to the people who work there, so don’t be worried about being too cautious or asking too many questions. The employees should be used to it and are trained to answer all your questions and concerns.
It’s just as important for your child to feel comfortable with the daycare, their employees, and the overall environment as you do. They’re the ones who will spend the majority of their days there, after all. Many daycares offer sit-in sessions and open houses for you and your child to get a feel for the classroom and their teaching styles. Consider attending one of these before committing to a daycare.
It’s All About Slow Integration
Even though you may be emotionally prepared to be away from your child for the majority of the day, your toddler hasn’t. At that age, they may not fully understand why they have to leave you and their home to spend the day with strangers. It can be a jarring and stressful experience. While some parents prefer to quickly rip the Band-Aid off, some kids may respond better to a slow integration to their new environment.
Ask your daycare if you can start your child off part-time or only have them attend a few days a week. Then gradually work up to having them full-time. This will give your child some time to acclimate to a different routine, make friends, and develop trust with the staff.
Child development researchers found two phases that children go through when starting daycare: the “adaptation phase” and the “separation phase.” They found that parents who stayed in the adaptation phase longer before starting daycare the lower their child’s cortisol (the stress hormone) levels were. If you have a strong bond with your child, easing them into this new phase in their lives will help lower their stress levels in the long run.
Increase Quality Time With Your Child
Your child will mimic your social cues—if you’re acting worried about leaving them at daycare, they will automatically feel more stressed about the situation. But if you’ve taken the time to bond with your child and build up a level of trust and love, they will, on a deeper level, know you are coming back for them. Letting your child know you love them by increasing quality time with them will keep their cortisol levels in check throughout the day.
It’s natural for both you and your child to feel a little stressed at this new time in your lives. But that stress shouldn’t stop your child from thriving in daycare. Sending your child to daycare will give you that extra rest you deserve and allow them to grow into their own personality and individuality. Follow these tips on making daycare less stressful for your toddler and you.
Featured Photo by Gautam Arora on Unsplash