It’s back-to-school time! Get your cocktails or if you’re a crier, tissues ready. I stayed home with my son, Donovan, for a solid 18 months before putting him in daycare. So I sat squarely on the cocktail side of things.
But regardless of how emotional that first day of school or daycare is for you, you’ll want to be as prepared as possible to make the transition easier for your son or daughter.
So our team of writers got together these seven tips for toddler moms on the first day of school:
1. Take care of your child’s things.
Kids are germy little creatures, so do as much as you can to keep everything that enters your child’s daycare clean. Label the items you send and wash them each week. Also, try not to send a bunch of stuff. If you’re lucky enough to find a place that provides diapers and wipes, you really only need to send medications, a change of clothes, a blanket and a small pillow (if allowed). Now, understand labels mean nothing to toddlers. That’s why sippy cups aren’t on that list. I sent my son with a sippy cup on his first day, and my mom watched another kid grab it and drink from it before anyone could stop it. Donovan switched to the daycare-provided disposable cups that day.
2. Don’t linger on the first day of school.
Give them a firm hug, words of affirmation, then leave. Don’t hang around and peek through windows because if you’re nervous and unsure toddler can pick up on that. You want your child to feel safe and get excited about school, so model that behavior.
3. Build a relationship with other parents on the first day of school.
We come from the school of thought that it takes a village to raise a child, so make other parents part of your village. They’ll be the ones in the trenches with you, the ones who truly know your pain and the ones who help you stay in the know. Compare with them, learn with them and when you need to, rally together to advocate for your children collectively.
4. Establish a relationship with the teacher early.
That might mean talking to her a few minutes after class to find out what your toddler learned or asking questions about routines you should mimic at home. If you’ve got a good teacher, she will love to see that you’re an involved parent willing to roll up your sleeves and help your child learn.
Related: How I Found the Best Daycare Near Me
5. Try to mirror their daily routines on off days.
Set a schedule for your toddlers that ensures they get 12 hours of sleep and are generally mimicking their school routines. Don’t just drop them off and pick them up whenever you feel like it. Consistency is everything for children. From discipline to dietary norms, it’s important for you to be on the same page as your child’s school or daycare. That means communicating with everyone from the teacher to the chef. Don’t just expect the staffers to know everything that’s in your child’s file. Sometimes you’ll have to tactfully give verbal reminders.
6. Give the school a chance.
No one is perfect. That includes your child’s first teacher and first school. If you notice a misstep, it might not mean the whole program is trash. It could just mean, that staff member is having an off day or the program is undergoing a transition and needs time to adjust. Pick your battles, and try to exercise a bit of patience so long as your child’s safety, growth and development aren’t being compromised.
7. Practice listening to your gut the first day of school.
What do you observe? Do you feel safe? Do staff members seem to have things under control? Sure, your kid may be crying, but how does his teacher handle that? Each child transitions to school differently. Crying, even every day, is normal for some. For others, it may be a red flag. No child is alike. You gave birth to the little boss, so you know when things aren’t right. Don’t be so quick to write off your gut feelings if they don’t match up with what school staffers are telling you. People lie. Your gut doesn’t. Run for the hills if you notice signs your child is not safe or being well taken care of. I don’t care if it is the first day of school.