Advice for Toddler Transitions

I have been meaning to write this post for a while. I have seen a fair amount of talk in general about transitions lately on various blogs and Twitter, so I thought I should get my act together and throw my two cents in.

A is 16 months old and, as many of you know, I went back to work in mid March. It has been an adjustment to say the least. I’ve whined about that before. But what I haven’t talked about is the part that went really well- A’s transition to the DayHome. So I wanted to share why I think it went so well.

First of all, we trusted the environment we were sending her to from the beginning. Both my husband and I just knew it was a good place for A. I really think this is key- look and look until you find a care arrangement you feel really good about. We were planning to put A in a day care, but when the place we were offered was a couple hundred dollars more a month then the other location we signed up for, we started to look around. I am so glad we did. Day Care’s can be great, but we felt that the small, one care giver environment of the Day home we choose was a better fit for A.

So if you are going through this transition, here is my advice:

1) Be prepared for crying at drop off to last a while. It will be okay and eventually it will stop. Then sometime, randomly, it will start up again. That is okay too. Chances are your baby/toddler will stop crying within 2 minutes of you leaving. Really. They will be okay.

2) Be prepared for your kid to be really cranky when you get him/her home for the first couple weeks. You would think he would be happy to see you (which he/she will be) but actually until they feel comfortable with the care environment and care givers, they will just bottle up stress until they feels safe with you and then they will just let it all out. So you end up with cranky baby. That too will pass.

3) Your mood/attitude is key. If you drop them off and are clearly anxious or upset, they will be more anxious and upset. Now since you are human you might not be able to do much about this one for a while, but if you can try to stay as positive as possible, it will make his transition easier. Babies and Toddlers are like little mood sponges and they are VERY perspective.

Lastly, let me repeat, it will be okay. That being said, trust your instinct. I really think it is key to feel very comfortable with your care situation. If you get the sense that something isn’t right- talk to your caregiver. If it still isn’t right- look for an other care situation.

Overall, A’s transition went great. Sure, she cried a bit. But it was clear pretty quickly that she likes being at the Day home. We are very lucky- they play outside most of the day, eat healthy homemade food and the older kids are very kind in playing with the younger kids. So truly, we lucked out. That being said, I was confident from the beginning and when I dropped her off I knew it was right. I think that this attitude I had was the number one reason why A made the transition so well.

Let me say this, I think you can take the key things we learned with A’s positive transition to day home and apply it to just about any transition for an older baby or toddler. It really boils down to:

1) Feel good and confident in your decision (whatever that is that you are then transitioning your toddler too). Don’t do things on a whim or a ‘maybe this might possibly be the way to go’. Think it through. And while I don’t advocate Google as your main form of getting parenting information or advice, I would recommend really talking it through with people/sources you trust.

2) Have a plan. Know what you are going to do and when. I arranged for 2 half days, one after noon and one morning, before I was actually going back to work, to drop A off for a trail at the Day home. This gave me the peace of mind that if something really went wrong the first couple times I dropped her off, that I could come and get her. Which I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was back at work.

3) Do whatever you can to hid any anxiety you have from your toddler. I am all for open and honest communication and I don’t think parents should be unemotional robots. BUT when it comes to helping a toddler with a potentially challenging transition, they want to feel secure. They will feel more secure if they don’t see you all stressed out. If you can’t calm your anxiety, fake it. Seriously. Your kid needs to believe 100% that you feel GOOD about the change. They are very very perceptive. Like VERY.  (I know, I am a broken record with this one, but seriously.)

Okay- I am out of wisdom… anyone else out there? What do you think are the keys to positive transitions for toddlers?

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5 responses to “Advice for Toddler Transitions

  1. ironicmom July 21, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    Wow. Great ideas. I think I may have thought some of these things at the time, but not intentionally.

    Somedays the only transition I can manage is the kids-are-awake to kids-are-asleep one. Best marked with a cup of tea or a glass of wine!

  2. Perpetua July 21, 2010 at 9:41 pm

    We’re considering doing daycare again, for at least a few days a week. Somehow I’m feeling like he would enjoy a few days of running around with other kids? I might be wrong, though.

    This is great advice, especially about anxiety. It’s so funny how they are like little barometers, showing you how tense you are when you sometimes don’t even know it.

  3. Jen July 22, 2010 at 8:48 am

    I am a dayhome and you totally hit the nail on the head. A few other helpful hints:
    1) don’t send special toys that your child will freak out if another child takes it. Toys are a group possession when the visiting kids are there, and the few special toys K has get put away when B is over. B, on the other hand, often comes with special toys, and I generally just remove them for the day.

    2) don’t send things that will leak, stain, etc and expect the dayhome to use it. B comes with a Klean Kanteen full of milk and it leaks all over my house because she doesn’t remember to drink from it the correct way. So, it lives in my fridge until lunch when she is seated at the table, and then it gets poured into a cup. It works for us.

    3)I’m a parent too, and I probably do a few things different than you. Accept that. The thing is, we take a child all day, love them and care for them like they are our own. I’m not really “staff”.

    • amoment2think July 22, 2010 at 6:04 pm

      Jen, I am so glad you commented. Great to get a Day home operators perspective.

      I totally agree with all your points! In particular, I totally agree with you not being ‘staff’, which is part of the reason why we like using a Day home over a Day care. Personal preference I know, but I would rather have my kid ‘treated like someones own’ rather then ‘treated like a job.’ Furthermore, of course you would need to do things different then each of the kids parents… if you have multiple kids from multiple families, if you disciplined them all differently according to their parents wishes it would get mighty confusing for the kids, I would assume. I trust my childs care provider and then try to keep things consistent at home.

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