How to adjust to daycare painlessly

Making your child feel connected to you while you are at work will keep her feeling happy at her pre-school or daycare centre.
Making your child feel connected to you while you are at work will keep her feeling happy at her pre-school or daycare centre.PHOTO: ST FILE

WASHINGTON • Your daughter is now 15 months old and you feel that it is time to return to the workforce.

But will the toddler adjust well in your absence in daycare?

While the uncertainty is understandable, the transition need not be difficult for both, said Ms Meghan Leahy, a certified parenting coach and mother of three daughters.

Here are some tips:

• Smell is a human being's most powerful sense by far, so the simplest way to connect to your child in daycare is through the nose. Send her to the centre each morning with a little stuffed animal that you have slept with. The more it smells like you the better and, while your child takes naps at the centre, simply having this object nearby will relax her.

• Rub her feet or back every night with a gentle scent, such as fractionated coconut oil and a drop of lavender. As she associates this smell with cuddling and being loved by mum, you can put a drop of lavender on the back of her shirt every morning. The association of the smell will help her to relax and feel close to you.

• Ask the daycare centre to hang family pictures on the wall. This is a fairly common practice and will allow your daughter to see you and your husband all day. She might point at it and cry, but this is okay. Why? Because parents want their children to feel sad about what hurts them; it helps them to adapt in a healthy way. Also, seeing your face will help her adjust to going back into your arms at the end of a long day. Or even have a photo made into a keychain or other small item. She can hold it when she gets sad and cuddle with it at naptime.

• Finally, many daycare centres have cameras filming all day, so parents can check in on their children. Ms Leahy does not suggest doing it too much, but if you set up a schedule (do it at lunch, for example), seeing your daughter playing, napping and happy will put your heart at ease.

In terms of connecting to your daughter at home with this new schedule, keep one word in mind: routine.

Your child is going to feel tired at the end of each day, so keep your evening routine fairly tech-free (technology is highly stimulating to already overstimulated young brains) and know she may be too tired to focus and eat well at dinner.

Focus on bathtime and bedtime as your connection points and smile and keep eye contact.

Every child is different, but a walk around the block at night with her in a stroller may be soothing to everyone in the house.

Keep the bedtime and wake-up routine as consistent as possible and do not take the tantrums after pick-up personally. Your daughter is having a meltdown with the person she feels safest with: you. So, keep a steady and calm presence.

Just because you do not have hours to nurse and cuddle her in the morning does not mean it will not happen at all.

Accept that it will be shortened and that it still matters to both of you. Relish the time and sing to her. Tell her that you are putting all of your love into her for the whole day.

Be silly and say things such as: "Do you see all the love in your elbow? In your little toe?"

If you do this every morning, she will feel a connection and relax.

Yes, she still may cry when you drop her off, but it will not be nearly as severe with your special routine.

Finally, include the daycare staff as part of your attachment village.

Go out of your way to get to know the people caring for your daughter. Smile and chat with them in front of her. This tells her: "Hey, mum likes and trusts these people."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 24, 2017, with the headline 'How to adjust to daycare painlessly'. Print Edition | Subscribe