Dr. Dina: Tips for Preparing Your Child for their Return to Child Care
Since facing this global pandemic, there have been major adjustments to almost every aspect of our lives. As things begin to return to some normalcy, many parents have been asking us how this “new normal” may impact their child when returning to care.
We want to give our families the tools and confidence they need to make their transition back to care as smooth as possible. That is why we partnered with Dr. Dina Kulik, Pediatrician and Emergency Medicine Doctor, to advise us on how to best prepare children for their return to child care.
Dr. Dina is the CEO and Founder of Kidcrew, a medical clinic which provides exceptional collaborative health care in Toronto. Kidcrew is the first of its kind in Canada, a forward-thinking clinic, which acts as a one-stop-shop for children’s health care.
- HOW CAN I PREPARE MY CHILD FOR A RETURN TO CHILD CARE?
Talk about it. For younger children, keep your words simple and brief, such as, “We love having you at home, but Mommy/Daddy get to go back to work and you get to go back to “school”! You are going to have so much fun again and your teachers and friends are so excited to see you.”
Get excited for the routine. Remind your child about their routine: getting ready for child care, going to see teachers and friends, playing, getting picked up, eating dinner with family, getting ready for bed. Show them pictures or tell stories to remind them what the centre looks like. Talk about the friends they will see and their favourite things to do.
Get back on schedule. Bedtime and naptime may be different at home. Quality sleep contributes to mood and emotional regulation, learning and wellbeing. Start back to that routine gently. Kids do well with a predictable naptime, and a sleep routine before going to bed.
Consider replicating child care naptime at home. Consider listening to the same music or sleeping in the same environment as at child care for a few days before care resumes.
Acknowledge their feelings. Heading back to child care is an adjustment, it may be difficult to separate from you again. Acknowledge that they may feel sad, anxious and even mad. Reassure them that they loved child care before and heading back is a positive thing that they will enjoy. And you will be so happy to see them at the end of the day and want to hear about the wonderful adventures they had.
Model child care routine, including new procedures. Consider trying to model the new routine for a few days prior to child care return. Practice some of the previous routines like hanging up their bag, circle time, and free play. Practice new steps such as washing hands, temperature checks or wearing a face covering.
Expect some behavioral challenges. Young children may not be able to express how they feel with words and may act out. Acknowledge emotions, but continue to enforce positive behaviour.
Plan 1:1 time together. Though you and your child may be tired at the end of the day, try to arrange special time to talk about their day, play a game or just cuddle.
Give yourself extra time. Allow for plenty of extra time in the morning for dropping off children. If a parent is feeling rushed or anxious, the child will sense that and feel anxious, too.
Fake it till you make it. Even if you are feeling anxious, act calmly and your child will sense this positive energy and feed off it.
2. WILL THE SAFETY PROTOCOLS IN PLACE BE SCARY FOR MY CHILD AND HOW CAN I HELP PREPARE THEM FOR WHAT IS DIFFERENT IN THE CENTRE FROM BEFORE?
Kids & Company: Our goal is to be as upfront as possible with our families as to the changes that will be noticeable. If you haven’t seen our Kidco Standard or our What to Expect When Returning to Child Care video, review the resources to be informed about what baseline protocols are in place to keep our families safe. There are differences to be expected, but they have become part of the normal for us after continuing to support essential families through the early days and transitioning to open in regions where it is safe to do so.
We believe the best way to prepare children for the changes that will be noticeable in centre is to speak to them openly about it. As Dr. Dina said, keep your words simple and brief. Something like, “Some things might seem different – we will drop you off at the front door instead of in your classroom and the Director or teachers will do a quick check to ensure you aren’t sick that day.” However, reassure them what they love about their centre is the same: they will see familiar faces and undertake the same learning and adventures as always. They will feel the love and care in the Kidco Kitchen meals they eat, will snuggle up for naps, and will play inside and out just like before. Their classrooms will be full of the tools and toys and equipment and books that they were used to exploring before.
Knowing you will be there at the end of the day just like before is also reassuring. Be positive and talk about how excited you are for that time of day when you get to hear about everything they have been doing. With preschool and school-age children, you can ask them to try and note the things that are different because of safety around COVID – having a mini-mission during the start of ‘new’ routines can provide confidence and focus.
For infants and toddlers, you can still use words to reassure them and try to mimic routines and get as much quality time in as possible before transitioning back.
We have a series of topics for families who are transitioning into child care for the first time here, and you may find the material useful even if this is just a transition back after sheltering in place.
We know there may be anxiety around returning to care, but be assured the changes in place are helping us keep risk low without interfering with the routines, learning and play that make Kids & Company centres special places to be.
We are overjoyed to be welcoming back families and want your transition to be as smooth as possible! If you have specific questions related to your centre’s procedures, your Centre Director is just a call or click away!