Your Child’s First Day at Bright Beginnings

The first day at a new child care center can be both exciting and fearful for children. Parents are often concerned about children adjusting comfortably to a new child care program. There are things that parents and caregivers can do to help with this adjustment.

It's normal for the first days of school to be an anxious period of adjustment for many parents and children. Kids are often working through intense feelings of discomfort, shyness, and even fear. Parents, too, may struggle with their own feelings of separation anxiety, embarrassment, guilt, and disappointment. When things don't go as smoothly as you hoped, try giving it some time.

  • Visit Bright Beginnings with your child before their first day of attendance. Point out some of the things that will interest or excite him. Check out the toys, crafts, books, dress-up box, and play equipment.
  • Reassure your child that you can be called if needed and show her the location of the center telephone.
  • Encourage communication with your child's teacher and caregivers before each day begins.
  • Let your child get acquainted with the various places (the office, the supermarket, the gym) you might be while he is at the center. He may feel more secure knowing what you are doing while he's gone.
  • Acknowledge and respect your child's "first-day feelings" while remaining firm about having to leave. Then give him something special to look forward to when he comes home at the end of the day.
  • Try not to show your own mixed feelings, if you have them. Act confident, strong, and matter-of-fact, and save the discussion with other parents of your own separation anxiety for times when your child is out of earshot.
  • Feel welcome to stay in the classroom until you and your child both feel comfortable and ready to separate. At this point, let the teacher know you are ready to leave, and he or she will assist your child.
  • Encourage your child to bring a small reminder of home, such as a picture of the family, a tape recorded message from you, or a special note from you to put in his pocket.
  • Establish a morning routine and encourage your child to help with dressing and organizing himself.
  • Choose a reasonable bedtime and try to stick to it (not always easy when older kids stay up later or when your favorite TV show is about to begin).
  • Use "quiet times" to talk about the pre-school activities your child enjoys. Kids are often more receptive to talking and listening under the cover of darkness or during a bath.
  • Share your calendar with your child, or help her keep one of her own, so she knows what to expect each day. Predictability and routine help your child feel more secure and in control.
  • Discuss the pickup arrangements with your child. Let her know when she'll be picked up (after project time, after snack time, etc.) and who will pick her up (you, grandma, daddy, etc.). Consistency and routine are usually comforting to a preschooler.
  • Go to the classroom with your apprehensive child the first time and show her where she will play, where her cubby is, the bathroom, and so on.
  • Ask the teacher to give you a progress report at the end of the week about how your child is dealing with your leaving.
  • Share your stories about your own first days of school with your children. Remembering and relating your stories can let your children know you really do understand their anxiety, while offering reassurance that everything will be okay.
  • Listen to and observe what your kids can tell you through their play. Role-play going to school, saying good-bye, and coming back home with them. It can be helpful to switch roles and let the kids play teacher and parent sometimes. Dolls, puppets, and drawing materials can also help kids convey their feelings and concerns.

One final note: Each child develops at his own pace in his own way; for every parent embarrassed by his clinging child, there is another mother worried that a quick departure means that her child hasn't bonded closely enough!