First Days: Easing the Transition

walking with toddler

There is little doubt that I am more nervous about this than my kid. At least that is the way it appears. She seems ready for her new schooling adventure. And me? I am a wreck.

Are you ready for your little one's new adventure this fall? Are they heading off to preschool or childcare for the first time?

Whether heading to preschool, a new childcare center, or even introducing a new babysitter, change can be a challenge. For everyone.

Can you make this transition a bit easier? How can it be done?

Talk about it. Even infants benefit from a heads-up (even if they don't quite understand all the words, they will find comfort in your voice). When you do talk about it with your child, keep it simple and positive. Even if you're unsure, don't let on to your kiddo. Keep calm. Be reassuring. Be your child's cheerleader for change.

Don't wait until the last minute. Some surprises are good, but introducing your child to a new environment and new caregivers is not one of them. When possible, ease in to it. The best transitions are filled with baby steps. Before that first day when you will be away, make several visits to the new program. Stay and play with your child, but back off. After all, this will be THEIR space to be while you are gone. Help them make connections, but support their independence.

Don't run out on them. If anyone tells you to “sneak out,” when you drop your kiddo off, DON'T DO IT. Sneaking out feels like abandonment to a child – no matter how old they are. Even if they cry when you say good-bye, do it.  Knowing that you have left is far better than worrying about where you are or if you are coming back.

Communicate your return and keep to your word. “I'll see you after naptime.” Young children don't tell time, but they easily do learn the flow of their day.

Establish routines and rituals. Whether it is one book, a hug and a kiss, or a special handshake (my little girl and I have a finger-to-finger power move – “Girl Power,” we shout), create a special good-bye. Yes, there still may be tears, but trust me, with consistency you will both transition easier.

Too many tears? If it doesn't get easier, re-evaluate. Start with the teachers and other program leadership (or your child's new caregiver). Seek tips and support from them. Try to find ways to observe your child without them seeing you present. And, if you've given it a chance, tried everything you can, don't be afraid to pull the plug and go a different route.

Wishing you (and ME!) a smooth transition during the earliest days of school fun!

What do you think?

First Days: Easing the Transition

Jeannie Fleming-Gifford is a mama to one little lady, freelance writer, and the director of education for a non-profit community school of the arts. Graduating with a B.A. in Music and a M.A. in Child Development, Jeannie began her career in quality child development programs as a teacher, then moved into creative administrative roles with science centers, symphony orchestras and arts programs. Owner of 170+ year old house, Jeannie loves living in small town America where walks to the park and ... More

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1 comment

  1. Profile photo of nydia rivera nydia rivera says:

    I remember when I first left my daughter at her daycare center, she was 18 months, I got there an hour before I had to show up to work, I read to her, sat with her on the mat during circle time, and then had to leave, of course I was told to just run for it, but I didn’t. I tried explaining and then since I know she couldn’t understand that I was leaving AND coming back later, I just sat her down with one of the caregivers and a book and her favorite lovey, and left. She cried and cried for about 20 minutes, they put her on a cot with her lovey and she fell asleep, this went on for 2 days, on the third day she just teared up a little and hung on to her lovey, then ran around with the other kids.


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