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The First Days

Care About Quality was published by the California Department of Education in 2000.

You think you have found the right care for your child. You are organized. You are ready to go back to work or start that new job. Then the time comes to drop off your child and suddenly you are filled with mixed emotions. This is normal, understandable, and okay.

Here are some common reactions to the first days at a new child care:

Although you may be sad and anxious regarding the first day, there are benefits for children in child care and for parents who work.

Parent Tip

Planning ahead is the secret to avoiding the morning rush hour. Gather toys, clothes, food, and your work items the night before so that you feel prepared for the next day. Check on the current public transportation schedule and what the weather may be like the next day. This helps with some of the early morning unknowns. Keep items, such as the umbrella, sunscreen, diaper bags or backpacks, and a warm hat, together so that you can find these essentials easily in case you need them.

Try these separation strategies 


Adjustments to care often depend on the age of the child. Each child will vary in the time it takes to adapt to a new caregiving situation. We call this the “trial period.” During the first few days, your child needs time to settle into a routine. Don’t read too much into how she acts. Your child is learning to separate from you and learning that you will come back. Sometimes the relief of seeing you again can overwhelm your little one. Take your cues from your child as to whether he is ready for a quiet-cuddly hello or a noisy-joyful one. 

Knowing what kind of day your child has experienced can relieve your anxiety. If your provider does not already keep written or mental notes on the children in care, you can ask her to do so. The record can be simple—just a few notes on what your child does and learns during the day.    

Talking with the caregiver about the transition before care begins may help smooth the process. A gradual separation and entry into child care will ease your child over the adjustment bumps.

Remember that even families that make easy adjustments need to be prepared for separation anxiety to recur. Children often regress after being taken out of care when they are ill or on vacation. Changes at home—a visit from grandma, potty training, a new baby, a divorce, or remarriage—may cause a child to suffer separation anxiety all over again. Changing to a new child care program may also trigger the separation blues. When this happens, look back on your past successes and reassure yourself that they can happen again. 

Normal separation milestones

Around seven to nine months of age, and again during the late toddler years, children go through “stranger/separation” anxiety, a common developmental milestone. Many parents mistake the child’s normal reaction for evidence of a traumatic event at care. They may feel guilty for subjecting the child to child care. This normal stage usually passes quickly, and children suffer no after-effects!

The Ride Home

Care About Quality Table of Contents

Questions:   Early Education and Support Division | 916-322-6233
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