Guidelines of First-timers

taken from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, Singapore

The decision to enroll your child in a child care center is a momentous occasion for you and your child. This will be the first time your child is away from you, in a totally unfamiliar environment, meeting new people, acquiring new skills and establishing a different routine.

As a parent, it will be an equally significant decision as you opt to share both physical and emotional controls of your child with a new caregiver, beyond the familiar confines of your home.

Here, we highlight helpful tips to parents who already made decision to use the child care facilities. It explains how your child may react to a child care center, clarifies some common misconceptions and highlights the benefits of a child care center.

How can I prepare my child for the child care experience ?

Before admission, prepare your child by explaining how enjoyable the experience at the child care center will be. Emphasize that it will be fun to meet other children, make new friends, see a new place, play with new toys and have a teacher who will look after him/her during the day.

To familiarize your child with the center, arrange to bring him/her for one or two brief visits.

Should I accompany my child to the center ?

It is advisable that you accompany your child for only a few days and not more than a week. Once your child begins to interact with other children, leave and allow him/her to settle down on his/her own. Your continued presence may make the adjustment more difficult as you child would become dependent on you. Subsequent visits will be useful to reassure your child and allow you to assess the childcare environment.

What should I do if my child refuses to attend the center, or has fears and nightmares about going there?

Be calm and direct with your child and emphasize all the fun he/she will have. Reassure your child that he/she will soon settle down in the new environment and make new friends.

If you child continues to be distressed, talk to the teacher and discuss ways to help your child overcome his/her fears. However, if you still feel uncomfortable, you may need to reconsider the child care rearrangement. As far as possible, avoid changing child care arrangements too frequently as this will be unsettling for your child.

Is it normal for children to cry when they are in a new child care environment ?

This is perfectly normal as children placed in a new environment often fear that their parents will not come back for them. Reassure your child that you will pick him/her later in the evening. Your child should become familiar with the daily routine once he/she realizes that the stay at the center is only for the day and he/she will be reunited with you at the end of the day.

How will my child behave during this adjustment period ?

Children react in different ways. Most will find the new environment exciting and challenging. They will want to tell you about their new friends and show off what they have learnt in the center. Some children, however, will be sad for a week or two because they feel that they are no longer the sole focus of attention as then they were at home. Others may become angry, cry and throw tantrums or refuse to eat.

The solution is to recognize that your child is undergoing a transition and encourage him/her to talk about the experiences. Firmly but gently reassure your child that this is an initial adjustment period and that he/she will eventually settle down and enjoy the experience.

How long does it take for my child to adjust ?

The time frame for adjustment varies for each child. A great deal depends on your attitude as a parent. If you are happy and confident about the arrangement, your child is more likely to settle down easily. It is advisable to allow your child about two weeks to adjust to the center. If you feel uncomfortable about the length of time your child takes to adjust, talk to the child care teacher about it.

Will the anxiety of adjustment affect my child when he/she enters school later on ?

Once your child is adjusted to the child care center, it will be easier for him/her to adjust to school later on.

Am I doing the right thing by leaving my child at the center ?

As a parent you may use many forms of child care, depending on your needs, the temperament of your child and your finance. Whatever form of care you select, it is very important that you spend individual time with your child whenever possible. The quality of your parent-child relationship is important.

What are the benefits of child care ?

A child care center can provide the social and emotional experiences which will help a child develop into an independent, mature and capable adult. A good child care environment provides the opportunity for play, discovery and imagination which are the building blocks for successful school education. The childcare curiculum helps your child to develop physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially.