How to make the best decisions about childcare
All parents want to feel like they are making the best choice they can when it comes to the care of their child. Leaving your child in childcare, particularly for the first time, can be difficult for both you and your child, but sometimes it is necessary in today's busy life. Choosing the kind of childcare that you are confident in and preparing both your child and yourself for the transition can help decrease anxious feelings and create a more positive experience for both of you.
Tips for making the childcare transition a positive experience
Consider your options. You know your child best. Making a list of your child's needs and how she would best be satisfied. This can help you make a decision about the most appropriate childcare environment for your child.You have many options, such as:
- Child care centers where your child is in a group setting with children the same age and multiple child care providers
- Family child care where your child stays at someone's home and the children there might range in age
- In-home care where a child care provider comes to your home and looks after your child
- Nursery schools or pre-schools where your child is in a group setting that is generally not year-round or full-day and has planned educational activities
Start your search early. If possible, begin visiting childcare settings a few months ahead of time. Ask to see the provider's license to operate, written health, safety, and emergency procedures, staff qualifications and requirements, including First Aid/CPR and background checks, and staff to child ratios. After you narrow down the choices, plan a visit with your child and see if she is comfortable and how she interacts with other children and caregivers.
Think about your schedule. Make sure the child care setting meets the needs of your schedule, is easily accessible to you via whatever means of transportation you use, and is in a convenient location to work or home.
Consider your financial situation. Make sure the setting you choose provides quality child care that is affordable to you. Understand the calendar for the year, tuition schedule, and penalties in case you need to move or leave the provider. Do not necessarily let your choice be affected by your financial situation. There are programs that can assist you in paying for childcare or provide you with a voucher. These are through your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency. Visit http://www.masschildcare.org/local_ccrr.html to find your local agency and ask about financial assistance.
Communicate with caregivers. Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions, set rules, and demand a lot; after all, the caregiver you choose is taking care of someone very special to you. It is important to communicate with child care providers about your child. Let them know about your child's personality, likes and dislikes, medical needs, eating and sleeping habits, and other information that will help them get to know and interact with your child. Make sure you check in with them regularly to ask about how your child interacts with other children, how she behaves, and what she is doing.
Ease your child in. Begin to prepare your child at least a week before you start leaving her in child care. See if you can take her for short visits a few times before she starts her schedule. Talk to your child about the activities she will be doing, and where in the schedule, for example after nap or lunch, you will pick her up. Allow extra time for dropping your child off for the first few weeks in case she has trouble saying good-bye. Even if your child is upset, it is important that she knows you are leaving instead of you slipping out while she is distracted. Develop and practice a routine for getting ready to go so neither you nor your child are anxious and stressed in the morning.
For more information on how to choose child care, visit Child Care Choices of Boston.