Parents and child: The first steps in a daycare center


A daycare center is a major step. For parents, because they separate from their child and leave their care to someone else. For the child, because it takes its first steps in becoming independent, away from the close and secure family environment. So, what should parents know and how will they prepare their child?

A daycare center is a new social environment to which the young child needs to adapt as it comes out of its close and protective family environment. This transition is not easy. As time for the new beginning comes, intense and mixed emotions overwhelm both the parents and the child.

The parents must prepare themselves mentally and accept the new reality in order to be able to prepare their child properly. This change will be pleasant for the child if it feels that its parent is also happy about this new situation. The thought that a child’s stay at the daycare center signifies its social, mental and emotional development makes separation from the child easier for the parents. At a daycare center, the child will develop competences and skills for its later life, while reinforcing its autonomy and independence.

Another issue that scares and concerns parents is the increased morbidity in daycare centers. The pediatrician has to remind parents that children grow up by falling down and getting sick, and that the contact with infectious agents during childhood promotes the maturation of the immune system in the adult life. Parents have to follow the precautions recommended internationally; this means complying with the vaccination programme and keeping children at home until their recovery. This reduces outbreaks in closed environments.

An idealised description of the daycare center might have the opposite of the desired effect. Parents should better give their child a description of what it should really expect. The recommended steps to be followed:
• Obtain information about the quality of preschool education, search for material that will help you evaluate and choose a proper daycare center;
• Visit the daycare center so that you can describe it accurately;
• Discuss with the child about how it is like to be in the daycare center; It should be better to make the description in a neutral tone, as it if were something normal. Children’s books available in the market could be useful and depict the daily routine in a daycare center.
• Explain to the child that it won’t be alone there, it will have a teacher and other kids and that parents say goodbye to their children in the morning as well.
• Describe what a teacher is and does: e.g. they help children play, be quiet, pick up their toys, learn songs and dances.
• Use a calendar to show children the days you go to work and they, accordingly, have to go to the daycare center, as it is their responsibility.
• Practice the morning routine with your child before the first day in the daycare center;
• Visit the daycare center with your child and show them where children play, eat and rest.

 On the first day
Useful advice specifically for the first day:
• Invite, in advance, another child who will go to the same daycare center to play together.
• Prepare the child by saying “On Monday, we will go to the daycare center, let’s prepare the school bag. What do you want to put inside?”. Let them take their favourite toy with them.
• On the first day, wake up the child 15 minutes earlier, so that you won’t get stressed if it does not want to go and wastes time.
• Develop a goodbye “routine”: e.g. “Give me a kiss and I will see you later to tell me what toys you played with”. Never leave them without saying goodbye, especially when they are occupied because they will become upset.
• Finally, when you go to pick them up from the daycare center, don’t forget to tell them how happy and proud of them you are without expressing any worries about whether they made it or not.


Written by
Charalambia Spanoudaki
Pediatrician –Neonatologist
Scientific Assistant with LETO Maternity Hospital


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