COVID-19: your child is going back to daycare after several weeks of self-isolation? Here’s how to prepare them.
April 30, 2020 | Parents who are going back to work will soon be able to send their wee ones back to their daycare facility. But how do you prepare such an event after several weeks of self-isolation? Here is the advice of a psychoeducator.
Some children will soon head back to their daycare facility after what might have seemed like an extended vacation with mom and dad. This will require a certain adaptation period for those children, believes Stéphanie Deslauriers, psychoeducator and author of the book Le bonheur d’être un parent imparfait. Not simply because these children stayed home for a prolonged period, but also because their daycare facility will be quite different due to the safety measures that will need to be implemented.
Breaking the News
Generally speaking, it is not necessary to inform children too long in advance, according to the psychoeducator. You can wait until a day or two before they will go back to their daycare facility. And you should paint it in a positive light. “You could say something like ‘you told me you missed your friends from daycare. Well, I have good news for you: you can go back and play with them tomorrow!’” says Stéphanie Deslauriers.
Since many sanitary measures will have to be implemented for the safety of the personnel and that of the children, it is also important to talk with your child about how things are going to be. You should explain to them that, for example, you will not be allowed to walk them to their room, and that not all of their friends will be there and that it is possible that the educator might wear protective equipment (e.g., mask, glasses, visor, gloves).
“Now more than ever it is crucial to cooperate with your daycare facility,” Stéphanie Deslauriers insists. Parents should make sure they are well informed on their daycare facility’s procedures so that they can explain those changes to their child.
Getting Used to the Mask
Parents should consider wearing a mask at home to get their child acquainted with the idea that their educator might wear one. They can wear a mask, show it to their wee one, let them try it on and play with it. “This will help assuage the fear of the mask, says Stéphanie Deslauriers. It shows them that the person wearing the mask is still the same person.”
Another good idea is to wear the mask and ask your child if you are smiling or frowning. Parents who do not have access to an actual protective mask can use a scarf. You could also show your child images of people wearing masks and point out people who wear one in public. All this is to make masks more of a familiar object.
Reassuring Your Child
The best thing to do to reassure your child is to answer their questions, if they have any. “There is a risk of giving a young child too much information when they are not ready to hear it, explains the psychoeducator. That is when you risk provoking anxiety.”
If your child is scared of catching the disease, you can reassure them that they just need to keep being careful by washing our hands frequently, for example. You can also reassure them by explaining the coronavirus disease mainly affects the elderly.
“Remind them that they have very little chance of catching it, Stéphanie Deslauriers adds. You could also explain that even if they do catch it, it is likely going to be like a cold and that their body has always done a good job of protecting their body and making them better. It is that kind of information that will make them confident in their abilities.” But the psychoeducator warns that parents should only share such information if their child brings up those issues. “You should not give them information like that if they have not expressed they are worried about the disease.”
Children will have to deal with another worrisome fact: being separated from their parents after several weeks spent together. You should therefore not be surprised if your wee one reacts to their return at daycare. “It is normal that they might cry and oppose more than usual. They might react the same way they would if they changed groups, if there was a new educator or even changed daycare centres, the psychoeducator explains. There will be an adaptation period.”
She recommends using the same strategies as when the child started attending daycare. “You could adopt a progressive return to daycare, if it is possible, suggests Stéphanie Deslauriers. By that, I mean taking your child to daycare for short periods that will gradually increase the time they spend there.”
Parents should also ask if they can take transitional objects—a teddy bear, a blanket or a scarf that smells like their parents—to their child’s daycare facility. Such objects are reassuring to a toddler. Another good idea is to leave a family picture that they can look at if they miss their parents.
Going Back to the Old Routing
If the child’s routine has changed during the last few months, the psychoeducator suggests using the next few weeks to go back to the old daycare routine. “You can gradually put your child to be a little earlier and feed them at the same time they would eat at their daycare facility. All those details will help them adapt to their return at daycare,” she explains.
It is perfectly normal for parents to be worried about the disease and their child going back to daycare. It is crucial, however, that parents do not communicate their worries to their child. “They can talk about it with their partner, their friends or their family, but not in front of the children,” she warns. Parents are models. Parents must feel confident that things will go well for the return of their wee one to daycare to actually go well.
“I understand the fears parents might have, says Stéphanie Deslauriers who is the mother of a 2-year-old girl. I am worried too! But I find comfort in the fact that I know children are excellent at adaptation. They often adapt better and faster than adults to new situations. You have to trust them.” In this context, it can also be useful to bear in mind that daycare facilities are beneficial to a child’s development in many ways (e.g., developing their motor skills, language skills, autonomy and social skills).
She does remind us that returning to daycare is on a voluntary basis. Parents who are too worried can keep their child at home. Their child’s place at their daycare facility is guaranteed until September 1st. But contrary to what had been announced, the parents will have to start paying again to keep their child’s place. According to the government’s plan, they could start paying again from June 22 when the activities of the child care network return to normal.
Resources: Association québécoise des CPE, gouvernement du Québec, ministère de la Famille
Julie Leduc — Naître et grandir
Photos : GettyImages/SDI Productions et Tera Images