Thoughts on Changing Child Care Situations
Changes in child care situations can occur at any time, and saying good-bye is often difficult. Some children face change with ease; others do not. Parents and child care providers working together can prepare a child to meet the demands of changing situations and to understand the importance of old friends as well as new ones.
What Parents Can Do
Think through your reasons for changing care before taking any action. If you’re satisfied with the child care, you may decide, for example, that a longer drive from a new home is preferable to searching for a new program. If your reasons for changing are based on dissatisfaction with the care, you should probably first discuss your concerns with the provider and attempt to reach agreement on the issues in conflict. BANANAS’ staff is available to mediate minor disputes if both parties think we can be of help. Visiting other programs at this time may convince you that even with some areas of disagreement, you and your child are better off staying put. Or, you may decide to go ahead with changing care. Remember that once you’ve given your provider notice, it can be difficult to reverse your plans. Take your time in making this important initial decision.
Parents should always give a child care provider as much notice as possible. A two-week notice seems minimal; a month would be better. Many times the contract signed between parent and provider determines the length of notice and should be honored. Telling the provider might be difficult. Some parents may feel comfortable saying “I will be changing jobs soon, and I would like John to go to child care closer to my work. It’s going to be so hard to change care.” For others, a brief statement “John will be leaving care at the end of the month” is enough. A notice period gives everyone involved the opportunity to think and talk about the change. Leaving a family child care home may be especially difficult because of the close personal feelings which develop between the provider and the family. If your child is at a center, be sure that all the staff knows about the departure. If your child has a favorite staff member, ask the center director if you can speak directly to that person so you are sure s/he knows when your child will be leaving.
- Examine your feelings about leaving the child care program. You may feel sad, guilty, angry, relieved and/or ambivalent about the transition. Once you analyze the situation you could realize that you need to make plans to get yourself, as well as your child, through this change. You might also discover you and your child experience a different degree of anxiety. Don’t project your feelings onto your child. At the same time, don’t assume because you have few concerns the same holds true for your child. You may be able to evaluate your child’s reaction more objectively if you can identify your own feelings.
- Be clear with your child about when the last day will be. Try not to tell your child too soon (one or two weeks is plenty, depending on the age of your child – the younger the child, the shorter the time should be). If you tell your provider before you tell your child, be sure the provider knows you are waiting to tell your child. Be clear with the provider that you want to be the person who tells the child about the change.
- If you have to leave a home or center suddenly, even a day’s warning or preparation is well worth the effort. Explain to your child what has happened and that you will be discussing the situation with the provider. If the sudden parting involves some disagreement, do not ask your child to take sides or get involved. It will be easier for the child to remain neutral if you discuss the dispute with the provider when your child isn’t present.
- Choose the new program with care. Visit a number of programs before committing yourself and your child. If you are confident about the new situation and trust the program, you will be able to communicate this trust to your child. Try to show your child in words and deeds the positive feelings you have for the new program.
- Share this Handout with both your present and your future child care programs and enlist their aid. You may want to arrange with the provider whose care you’re leaving a way for your child to get involved in saying good-bye, for instance, by bringing a farewell treat the last day.
- Don’t feel like you’ve failed if your child is upset about leaving a program. It is sad to leave old friends and familiar surroundings. Prepare yourself for some tears or “acting out” and give yourself a little extra time the last day for final good-byes. Children should feel free to express their emotions even if your feelings are different. Although you can point out the new horizons that lie ahead, your child may not feel positive about the new child care situation until s/he has had time to adjust.
- Think about and then discuss with your child any changes in routine or schedule that will occur as a result of changing care – like getting up earlier, eating breakfast away from home, driving with an adult other than you, etc. If your child has changed child care situations before, s/he will probably be able to draw parallels from those previous changes.
- Take your child for a short visit to the new home or center. Plan on spending enough time for the child to say hello to the new staff and to look around and get a feel for the new situation. If you ask your child a leading question like “How do you like the new place?” be prepared for “I don’t,” “I won’t go,” “It looks yucky!” Children are usually very loyal and may feel they are “betraying” their old friends for new and, as yet, unknown ones. Acceptance of a new situation always takes time. If possible, leave a very young or resistant child at the new program for a short time at first and then gradually increase the stay. You may feel guilty about leaving a reluctant or upset child. Discuss your feelings with the new provider. S/he can help both of you let go when it’s time.
- After the move, pay attention to your child’s feelings. Help your child think about the changes with simple statements like “Maybe you miss ____; I can understand that” or “Perhaps your day is very different now.” Recognize how important changes are to children by allowing them to express their feelings.
Some children get used to a new child care situation in a short time. For other children, the adjustment is more difficult and they may cry or refuse to go to the new program. If the parent remains calm and enlists the aid of the new provider, the experience can usually become a positive one. After several weeks, your child will help you know how the new child care is going in actions and behavior – talking about the day, eating and sleeping well at home, being active and cheerful. But if you still have concerns at this time because your child is not entirely happy about going to child care, talk to the new provider and/or call the BANANAS Warmline: 658-6046.
Reprinted with the permission of BANANAS, Inc. © 2007 BANANAS