Preparing For and Transitioning to Child Care

11 Tips to Help Families Navigate the Return to Work

by YMCA of Okanagan

The initial switch to child care often presents a challenging adjustment period for families. Though difficult, this introductory phase is temporary with everyone adjusting at their own pace. After working with many families throughout this transition, the YMCA has gathered the following eleven tips to help make the return back to work a little easier for you and your family.

Set a positive tone • Children often reflect the mood of their parents. If you are nervous or emotional, they will likely pick up on it. Keep a positive outlook and calm demeanour to guide your child’s reaction. Children adapt quickly and it’s often more difficult on the parent. It is important to remember you will all settle into a new normal soon enough.

Meal prep  • It’s normal for children to feel over stimulated after a full day of playing in a new setting. For the first while, they may be clingy for attention once you return home. Make freezer meals ahead of time and as much as you can, use your crock-pot and prep dinners the night before. Simplifying dinner time will allow for more quality time together to wind down and reconnect.

Spend some time apart • If your child is unaccustomed to being away from you, it’s best to gradually introduce small increments of time apart. Leave your child with a babysitter or go for a workout and leave him or her in child minding. This will help each of you adapt slowly while reassuring your child that you will always return.

Make a fun to-do list • Besides the standard meal prep and child care shopping list, be sure to include fun bonding activities on your to-do list. Make time for activities you enjoy together, particularly those that will be hard to do once you’re back at work. Go swimming, enjoy story time at the library, go for a trip together or participate in mom and me  classes that only take place during the week.

Socialize your child • Give your child the opportunity to adjust to interacting with other children outside of the home. Exposure to new places and faces at playdates, play centres and in community programs will help children foster independence, learn to play and familiarize themselves with group settings.

Manage expectations • If you expect to get out the door on time, have nutritious dinners on the table, arrive in an impeccable outfit and avoid meltdowns every single day, you are likely setting yourself up for failure. Remember to go easy on yourself. It will take some time for the entire family to settle into this new flow of life but you will get there.

Transition slowly • Ensure you give your child adequate time to adjust to his or her new environment and child care providers. It’s extremely helpful if you can spend some time at the facility with your child for the first few visits. From there, try to leave him or her for shorter ‘trial runs’ to gradually work up to eight-hour days. If possible, see if you can go back to work part-time for the first while or start mid-week to further ease the transition.

Simplify your morning routine • Streamlining routines will allow for more bonding time as a family. Shower, make lunches and lay out clothes the night before. After getting ready, put a housecoat over your clothes to avoid wearing your child’s breakfast to work. Divide morning tasks among family members. See if child care providers will feed your child breakfast when they arrive.

Allow for extra time getting out the door • The first few drop offs will likely take the longest. Make sure you leave adequate time to deal with any extra messes or outfit changes and to make sure your child is settled in nicely before you leave. If you are frantic and rushed your child will pick up on it. Tears will be inevitable and when they do come, it’s best if you’re a little ahead of schedule to squeeze in some reassuring snuggles.

Prepare for sick days • When heading into child care for the first time, it’s inevitable your child will fall ill after exposure to new germs. Although good for their immune system, this can be difficult to plan around. Stock your medicine cabinet and look into immune boosting foods and remedies. Make sure you are fully aware of the sick time your employer allows for. Share time off between parents and ensure you have back-up care options.

Be greedy with your time together • Now is the time to focus on quality over quantity and be fully present with your child. Make weekends together count, decline social invitations, unplug more often and ensure you have plenty of uninterrupted play time together. Don’t over schedule your family, especially for the first while. One hour of engaging play together is better than four hours of distracted time in the same house.

It’s important to remember that most every family gets through this transition. If you are feeling guilty, look into the many benefits of child care. Take comfort in the fact that the majority of child care providers are passionate about what they do and that Canada has many laws in place to ensure quality standards are met. Your child will eventually enjoy his or her time in child care. Remember that whether you stay at home, work full-time or part-time, the love and bond shared between a child and parent is irreplaceable.

The YMCA is a trusted charity and the largest child care provider in Canada. They are dedicated to nurturing young minds and helping children reach their full potential. Thanks to generous donors, the YMCA is able to offer financial assistance above and beyond government subsidy for families in need. Learn more at


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