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The Ride Home

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

It may come as a surprise that one of the most stressful times of the day may be when we pick up our children from child care and take them home. We imagine the moment when we reconnect with our children will be joyful, but at times it’s filled with tears, friction, or exhaustion. 

Here are some tips to ease your ride home: 

  • If at all possible, limit the number of hours your child spends at child care. See if you can manage work schedules in which one parent drops the child off as late as possible in the morning and the other parent picks the child up as early as possible. If one parent is unable to help with transportation, perhaps a neighbor or relative could help—even one day a week. Also, keep in mind children tend to be especially tired between 4 and 6 p.m.
  • Leave work on time. Take five to ten minutes before quitting time to tie up loose ends and prepare for the next day.  Know your child will be waiting for you, and leaving work on time will give you more time with her.
  • Leave your work at work. When you carry your troubles home, your child will immediately sense your stress. Although your job is important, your children are important too. Remember, your work will be waiting for you tomorrow.
  • Hug your child. Tell him how glad you are to see him. Stop and listen, really listen, to him before you go home.
  • Tell your child something good about your day. Children are curious about what you do when you are away from them. Tell them a story about your day. The older your child becomes, the more interested she will be in your job.
  • Ask about your child’s day. Kids experience good and bad days just like adults. Respect your child’s feelings and really listen to show you care.
  • Keep a snack on hand. It never fails—as soon as you’re on the road, your child is hungry or thirsty, starving or dying for a drink of water. He could eat a whole pizza. Fixing a simple snack, like fruit and cheese, and keeping a water bottle on hand can change the mood of the ride home from grumpy to bright.
  • Breast-feed or give your infant a bottle. In the same way a snack makes a difference to an older child, feeding your infant before you get on the road is a wonderful way to reconnect at the end of a busy day.
  • Have your child use the bathroom before leaving child care. You want to prevent a scene like this: Your three-year-old is safely strapped into the car seat. You finally make it to the freeway, and yes—you are stuck in traffic. “Dad? I need to go potty. DAAAAD! I really need to go!” In the case of younger children, check with the provider to find out when diapers were last changed.
  • Wind down. The trip home can also be a quiet time for both of you. It may be a good time to let your little one catch up on some needed ZZZs.
  • Have fun. Listen to music. Sing. End the day with one big solo and you’ll have your child laughing, too.

Making Your Choice Work

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Questions:   Early Education Division | 916-322-6233
Last Reviewed: Friday, December 15, 2023
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