Worried, overwhelmed and, that old mum classic, guilty may be just some of the things you are feeling at the prospect of sending your child to nursery.
Whatever their age, it’s hard to let go. If you’re sending them to daycare after enjoying a year of maternity, you’re probably wondering how on Earth an entire year can flash by so very quickly.
If you’re sending them to childcare after just a few weeks or months you’re probably even wondering if it’s too soon and how your baby, and you, will cope with the separation.
There’s no doubt about it, even if you’re desperate to return to work, settling a baby into childcare is tough emotionally on both of you.
But there are steps you can take to make it all easier on you and your child.
Here’s everything you need to know about making it a smooth transition.
1. Be picky about the nursery/childminder
Whether you’re opting for a nursery, crèche or childminder, you have the right to be choosy. It’s your money after all.
Try to take your time when choosing and visit multiple places before you make your mind up.
If you do the legwork now, you will feel better about it when it comes to actually dropping your child off on that first day.
2. Do your research
Check out the website of the childcare provider you’re considering. Read the latest Ofsted report. Don’t base your entire decision on this report, but do use it as a helpful guide and it can flag up issues for concern that you may want to question the provider about when you visit.
3. Make a list of questions
It’s worth writing down all the things you want to know. This can be stuff like the daily routine, how they settle children for naps, do they leave children to cry to sleep and how they deal with bad behaviour.
4. Do the math
Obviously you want to pick the best childcare provider possible but money has to come into it somewhere.
Don’t exceed your budget because it will only add to the stress of returning to work.
Find a balance between somewhere you love and somewhere you can afford. I found some nurseries varied in price by as much as £25 a day.
5. Talk to your child’s key worker or childminder
Once you have settled on the place or setting that you like provide as much information to the person who will be spending the most time with your child as possible.
A nursery will allocate a key worker who takes most responsibility for caring for your child each day, although other members of staff may jump in occasionally for holidays and breaks.
Tell your carer things like what your child loves doing, what they hate, songs they like, how they are comforted to sleep, what their favourite toy is, anything that will help.
6. Send your child with a familiar comforter or toy
This is such a key thing for a lot of children. Our nursery also encourage us to make a little photo album for our child to have with them at nursery so they can look through it if they’re feeling homesick.
Try to find a way to remind yourself to bring the comforter with you every day. Forgetting it can leave you feeling guilty and leave your childcare provider stressed without a crutch to help them handle your child when they’re upset. The easiest option is to have multiple comforters. I bought four of the same comforter so my daughter is never without it.
7. Use the settling-in visits wisely
Pick the best time of day for your child to be introduced to a new place and people. Taking them for a settling-in visit when they normally have a nap will just end in tears.
Play with them for a little while, remember to be positive, and leave them to it for a while too.
Try to have as many settling-in visits as possible. It will make things much easier for your child to adapt and you will get used to the setting as well.
8. They will cry
Hearing your little one cry when you’re doing something you already feel awful for just adds to the heartache. It is horrendous and you will likely end up sobbing over your steering wheel in the car park.
Some children take a long time to adjust to nursery. The more days they are in nursery, the quicker they will adapt.
If they are only in one day a week, you may find the struggle to settle in. But they will eventually settle in.
Remind yourself of three things. You need to work to make a living for your family, your child will have fun and learn to socialise with other children their age, and 99 per cent of the time it sounds worse than it really is.
9. Sometimes you need to just walk away
The best thing you can do for your child at drop-off time is to not linger or get emotional yourself.
Be upbeat and cheerful. Say goodbye and tell your child you will pick them up later.
It’s ok to try to hang around until they’re distracted by a toy or activity but if they start crying, the best thing you can do is walk away and leave them with their key worker.
Often the longer you are there, the harder your child is to pull out of it. Your key worker will thank you for just leaving the room.
10. Call the nursery for updates
If you are worried, call the nursery, or childminder, for updates during the day. If they are a good childcare provider, they will be happy to let you know how your child is doing.
11. Ask if there is any more you can be doing
Keep talking to your key worker. Ask questions at the end of your child’s day at nursery, they should always have five minutes to speak with you.
Ask if you can bring in any items from home to help your child settle in, if they would prefer their own bedding from home for naps or more toys.
12. Know that the first few weeks may be rough
Some children settle in to nursery life with zero problems. But most kids have some rough days and some even cry at every single drop off.
If you’re returning to work at this time as well it can make for a very tough few weeks.
Remember that you’re all settling in to a very different routine and way of life.
Make the most of the time in the evening you have with your child and try to plan fun things at the weekend. You will settle in to this new routine eventually.
13. Speak to other parents for support
You are not the only one who has gone through this and more parents will go through it after you. Try to get chatting to other parents when you pick up or drop off your child.
A bit of solidarity can really work wonders.
Are you preparing to send your child to nursery or have they just started? What were or are your biggest worries? I would love to hear from you.