There are some things to think about as you work to figure out the reasons for your child’s sadness and ways to help you and your child through it.
• Carefully check-out any child-care situation before you enroll your child. It is essential to talk to the staff, both the director and all of the caregivers who will be interacting with your child as you are getting to know a childcare program. You can read the handbook. Or, find out the philosophy of the program.
Also, you may ask about licensing and accreditation. Study the program at different times of the day.
• Help your child make the adjustment to child care gradually. Once you have decided on your child-care setting, spend some time with your child adjusting to the program. You and your child can visit together before you ever leave. As you spend time together in the child-care setting, your child will be able to explore from the safety of your presence and will begin to get comfortable before you have to leave. This also gives you and the caregiver a chance to get to know each other. The caregiver can observe your interactions with your child and you and the caregiver can begin building the strong partnership which will form the basis of quality, consistent care for your child.
Once you start to leave your child in care, you may implement a gradual schedule, where you first leave for one hour and gradually increase the time, until you have reached the full care time. You will probably need to pay for a full-slot as you are doing this warmup, because the program won’t be able to enroll another child in your child’s place.
• Work towards consistency in scheduling. Even though young babies can’t tell time, they begin to internalize their schedules. Once you have helped your child adjust to child care, work to keep his schedule as predictable as possible.
• Leave familiar things with your child. Children love to have pictures of their families with them in childcare. Some programs post them low on the wall or make little books with them so that infants and toddlers can see them easily. Some parents leave an article of their clothing with their baby. The familiar texture and smell can help a young child feel more comfortable. Some programs make tapes of parents talking, singing or reading to play for children when their parents are gone.
• Build a strong partnership with your child’s caregiver. Sharing the care of a child is one of the most significant things two people can do together. Working in concert with your child’s caregiver is crucial for the child’s success in childcare. This includes spending time daily checking-in between parent and caregiver at drop-off and pick-up time. This may include a home visit where the caregiver visits the family in their home, as well as parent conferences, where the parent and caregiver talk regularly about the child’s development and shared goals for the child’s growth. Parent meetings in which the whole group of parents meets with caregivers to talk about children, development and the program can also be an important part of building a strong bridge between you and your child’s caregivers.
• Ways to trouble-shoot when your child is showing distress. Think about the possible reasons your child is crying when you leave him. Is he still adjusting? Are there other changes going on in his life or schedule? Do you feel confident about the quality of care he is receiving and about whether it is a match for his individual needs? Talk to his caregiver. Find out how long after you leave he cries. Ask the caregiver’s opinion about what she thinks is going on for your child. Use up some time with your child in child care. Observe. Talk to other parents. It is significant (and not always easy) to find out if this is a temporary discomfort for your son, or if it is an indication of a need for a change. If you feel confident in your child-care situation, work to help him make the transition and give it another few weeks. Usually, with a responsive, consistent caregiver and good parent-caregiver communication, a baby can make the adjustment to childcare and learn to trust his new surroundings and caregiver.