4 tips to prepare an anxious child for their first day in kindy or daycare
Your toddler’s first morning of kindy or daycare marks a significant transitionary period for your family. The first day is usually going to be a mix of emotions for everyone involved. For mum and dad there may be the anxiousness of wondering about every possibility of their child’s day. Will they be ok? Did I pack the right lunch? I better not be late. Separation anxiety and extreme emotions can be experienced by children on their first days without their parents too. It’s not uncommon to see multiple crying children (and parents) at the front doors of daycares and pre-schools across the world. For the educators the first day can stir up butterflies and anxious thoughts as well. They may be starting in a new role or new location and it is perfectly natural to feel nervous on the first day going back to anything.
Resilience training programs provide multiple methods and advice for helping to overcome these negative emotions so everyone can focus on the positives of a child’s first day in daycare. The most important of these is preparation. Preparing yourself and your child is the key to ensuring a smooth transition to daycare and pre-school.
- Adjust to the routine before time
Toddlers and young children are particularly susceptible to struggling with abrupt changes in routine. It is important to ensure you prepare your child for what they will experience on their first day, this includes adjusting to the new routine of Daycare. If your toddler needs a new sleep schedule, make sure it is implemented at least one week out from D-Day . Start getting up at day care day times each day, consistent breakfast times and even go for a drive and visit a park or socialising area for your child to become used to it.
- Visit the Daycare centre with your child first
Children can take time to adjust to new and stimulating environments and this transition is doubly difficult when the new environments are paired with being separated from a parent for the first time. Take your child with you to the daycare centre at least once before their first day. Becoming acquainted to the new environment with you by their side will give them a sense of security and warmth. Some daycare centres will even allow a ‘practice day’ where you will be able to get a good feel of what to expect on the first day, and even help work on specific areas.
- Get your child excited for the day
You are a source of feeling and emotion for your child and if you are dreading the first day at daycare, they are bound to feel that energy. Take them out and buy a brand new outfit for their first day. Remember how fun it was getting a new outfit for your first day? Doing this can help your child see how special their first day as a big boy or girl is going to be, focus on the positives and tell them of all the fun things they’ll be able to do with their new friend.
- Validate your child’s feelings
It is perfectly normal for a toddler to be anxious or even scared about starting daycare, despite having the perfect plan, life doesn’t always stick to it. If the first day hasn’t gone smoothly, that is perfectly ok. You can change your plan and do things differently moving forward, but it is important for your child to feel reassured and validated during this time. Plan some extra bonding time and find activities that bring the family together in a positive environment. If you have a baby, planning extra snuggling or breast feeding time is a great bonding activity. If your children are older, take them to the beach, park or library and spend time together and let them know you are always there for them.