When you’ve had a tough day, daycare pick-up can add to your stress. When you catch a glimpse of your child’s smiling face, it should be the best part of your day. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. Instead, you struggle with a bout of Mommy-anxiety. And that can make you feel a little bit guilty.
Daycare pick-up is sometimes the final stressor of a long bad day. It’s the last straw on top of annoying bosses, rush hour traffic, and a check engine light that comes on at exactly the wrong time.
Daycare pick-up stress comes from forcing yourself to think about cooking a nutritious family meal when you’d really rather zip through the fast-food food drive-through on the way home. Your bad day peaks when you enter the daycare center and your child looks up at you, screeches a firm, decisive “No!” and walks away.
You Need a Stress-Free Daycare Pick-up Routine
Let’s face it. As parents, you’re at your child’s mercy at the end of the day. You’ve already used all of your energy so you don’t have the patience to play daycare chicken. You don’t want to engage in an uncool screaming match with a toddler. All you want to do is go home. When you plan your pick-ups ahead of time, you can take steps to accomplish this simple goal. Here are a few tips.
Establish a Pick-Up Rule
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers page recommends that families establish simple rules. Even a toddler can learn to follow your simple daycare pick-up rule: When mommy shows up, it’s time to go.
The CDC also explains that family rules work best with consistency, predictability, and follow-through. They also explain that you should create no more than one or two rules for toddlers to follow.
Give Your Child 5 Minutes Advance Notice and Set a Timer
Instead of walking into the daycare center, grabbing your child, and running out the door, let her know you’ve arrived. Give him five additional minutes to finish his activities while you gather his belongings.
To reinforce your departure instructions, show your child that you’re setting your cell phone timer for 5 minutes. When it goes off, give him one more minute if necessary, then go home. Your child will eventually get into a rhythm and a routine. Then you can simply say, “I’m setting your timer.”
Perform a Mommy Wind-down
Sometimes Mommy is the problem. When you bring your stress into the daycare center, your child will pick up on your mood and the situation often goes downhill from there. You can change your mood if you plan a pick-up schedule that includes a few minutes to wind down from your day.
Drive to the daycare parking lot and remain in the car for a few moments of “me” time. Close your eyes. Inhale and exhale deeply. Listen to soothing music. Sip water, tea, coffee or eat a big chunk of chocolate. Relax long enough to change your mood. They go inside and greet your child with a smile.
Bring a Pick-Up Offering
Children love surprises. If you have a daily going-home snack or some other simple “surprise” waiting in the car, he’ll be excited to leave the daycare center without the usual drama.