Preparing your child

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Once you've chosen care for your child, you'll want to prepare your child and yourself for this important change in your lives.

If you have an infant, and you'll be leaving your child in someone else's care for the first time, you can expect that the separation will be hard for you, as it might be for your child. A knowledgeable child care provider will give your baby extra attention and comforting and can also give you some help understanding how to get through this difficult time.

Research on mothers and infants suggests that the best child care arrangements occur when the parent is comfortable with her decision to return to work. Children—even infants—pick up on a parent's feelings, and your baby is more likely to be happy with a child care arrangement if you're happy with it. Remember that finding the right child care arrangement is more important than deciding on the right age to begin child care. No matter who provides it, your child will thrive with good care.

If your child is old enough to understand, explain what will be happening. Go over the details of the routine and activities of the new care arrangement. Talk about the other children and the adults who will be with your child. This will build up your child's confidence. Here are a few ideas you can use:

Visit the home or program beforehand with your child. Spend some time exploring it and watching or playing with the other children.

Spend some time with your child's sitter, provider, or teachers to allow your child to become more familiar with them.

Ask your provider for any advice on how to introduce your child to the new routine gradually. If you have some specific ideas that you know will also work, feel free to share them. Talk with your provider about how you can work together to make your child feel more comfortable.

Try to be aware of your own feelings. Let your child know that you trust the arrangement and that you share and understand his or her temporary sadness.

When you leave, always say good-bye to your child. Never try to slip away unseen. Children need to know that you have gone away temporarily, not just disappeared.

Separation is normal and healthy, even though it can be painful for both children and parents. Your child will probably experience the pain of separation most acutely during the first days of child care, but might feel it again later. Children in child care learn to say good-bye every day. Most of them feel a little sadder about it on Mondays. On Fridays, they feel a little sad saying good-bye to child care. At the same time they are learning the joys of greeting you when you come back and of greeting their friends and caregivers in child care, too. Some children have a longer adjustment period than others. Remember that it's important to work closely with your child care provider.

If you're changing your child care arrangement, allow your child plenty of time to say good-bye to the old place or person, and take the time to introduce your child to the new care—the place, the people, and the routine.

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