Submitted by Danny Grubb
It is stressful to leave your child in the hands of a stranger for the first time. I know it was for us. You feel dirty when you leave while your child is being held back by they daycare teacher or distracted by a toy. You tell yourself that putting food on the table is more important and so off to work you go, feeling like crap.
You hope that the people you've entrusted your child to will care for your child the way you would, but you wonder whether all the other children in the room will make that possible at all.
When you're at work that first day you KNOW that your child is asking for you and crying their eyes out before going to sleep. You KNOW that when you pick them up that evening they will love you less. The stressed parent's brain can conjure scary scenarios like no other brain can.
Alas you return to the daycare in the evening and your child meets you with a full embrace and maybe a few tears. The teacher shows you the crayon drawing your child made during art time and tells you how much fun they had with the other kids and suddenly you feel better. You think to yourself "Maybe I'm not the worst parent in the world."
Daycare can be stressful, but there are things you can do to make the most of the situation.
Get To Know The Staff
If you've ever had a job you know that you will always have good days and bad days. Daycare staff are no exception to this rule. In Washington State the maximum allowable child to staff ratio for toddlers is 7:1. Staff that are subject to those kinds of numbers will have challenging days. While you're getting your kids settled into the room or preparing to leave, spend a little time to get to know the teachers in the room. On top of being a decent human thing to do you'll likely reap the following benefits:
1. You'll learn things about how your child behaves in daycare. Of course you'll be notified of the milestones and the bad behavior of your child as it happens, but would you find out that your 2 year old hugged another child that was crying earlier in the day? Not necessarily.
2. You'll learn the politics. Spend enough time in any place and you'll overhear conversations about who does what. Eventually you'll learn more than you've ever wanted to know about the other teachers and rooms.
3. You'll make possible baby sitting contacts. Although most daycares would frown upon one of their staff moonlighting as a babysitter, we all know how hard it can be to find someone qualified to watch your kids on short notice. The more qualified people in your rolodex, the better.
Follow The Rules
Every daycare has its own culture. If you don't follow the rules you'll quickly be labeled as ignorant or an asshole. Reputable daycares will have a handbook clearly outlining everything you need to know to be a completely assimilated cog in the daycare machine.
Knowing the rules around when your child gets sick or has discipline issues will likely come in handy at some point.
Challenge Bad Habits
There is give and take in every relationship and the parent/daycare relationship is no exception. If you notice that the kids aren't getting their hands washed before eating then it is your duty as a parent to challenge that habit.
You wouldn't know it by following the news, but it is possible to communicate criticism in such a way so as to not make any enemies. But if the issue is important enough, don't be afraid to go straight to the director and make your concerns known. Like when you see a teacher yank your child hard by the arm.
The relationship between parent and daycare is also a trust relationship. You trust them with your child and they trust you to have the best interest of the other children at heart when your child has a temperature or a stomach bug.
As it is with all trust relationships, trust is easier taken than given. If you start feeling as thought the teachers don't care about the kids or that you aren't being listened to, it can be extremely hard if not impossible to repair the relationship.
Don't feel bad though, it is not uncommon nor is it something to feel guilty about to move your child to another daycare. If you no longer feel comfortable at the daycare you're at then it is in the best interest of your child for you to move. Remember, children are capable of reading you. They will know if you distrust a person or place.
What was your daycare experience like? What else can parents do to make daycare a positive experience?