More Ways to Smooth Childcare Transitions
4. Ask his teacher if there is something special she can give to your son -- such as a cuddly stuffed animal -- that he can take to the new center for comfort when he needs it. This kind of transitional object can help your son hold his old caregiver in his mind and provide the comfort he needs to adapt to his new setting. While some parents worry that these remembrances from the old center will be more upsetting and interfere with the transition, in fact, such keepsakes are very important. They help children remember and honor their experience in a special place. They also give children permission to express their feelings of loss and sadness, which is key to helping them move on and adapt to what comes next.
5. Have a special goodbye ritual for his last day. You can bring in his favorite snack or music tape and have a small party to celebrate his time there. Marking partings like this is important for helping children say goodbye.
6. If possible, take him to see the new childcare center several times before he makes the actual transition. Let him explore the room where he will be cared for and meet the caregivers.
7. During the first week in the new center, stay with him for an hour or two each morning. Gradually decrease the time you stay until you simply drop him off by the end of the week. He will take his cues from you; if you interact warmly with the new teachers and other children, he will know that the new center is a good and trusted place.
Taking a thoughtful and incremental approach will help your son successfully adjust to his new childcare setting. It will also help him learn how to cope with future changes as he grows.
Claire Lerner, LCSW, is a child development specialist at Zero to Three, a national nonprofit promoting the healthy development of babies and toddlers (zerotothree.org).
Originally published in American Baby magazine, July 2005.