August 14, 2018

Back to Work After Baby: 4 Tips to Ease the Transition

Contributed by Toni Berrafato, Program Evaluation Specialist

As a Doodle Bugs! employee, I have the unique perspective of knowing and understanding our program inside and out — the educational, operational and employee-engagement aspects, all of which play a huge role in creating an ideal learning environment for young children. However, just like any other parent, preparing to drop-off my child in a new environment for the first time feels intimidating.

A couple months ago, our family grew from two to three. I am so grateful to have had a few months of maternity leave to bond with, and get to know my daughter, Aria. But now, as I anticipate the start of my “working mom” career, I am spending a lot of time thinking about how I can set Aria and her teachers up for success.  I’ve been compiling a list of ways that I can bring touches of home to “school” and wanted to share with you!

A familiar story with a familial twist.
  • Since Aria was born my husband and I have been reading stories to her. One of our favorites is the “Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?” series. From an educational perspective, I understand the importance of having a family photo somewhere in the classroom to comfort her when she misses us. I thought it would be fun to take a different spin. I made an “Ari bear, Ari bear, what do you see?” book and sent it in. On each page it follows the beloved format. For example “I see daddy looking at me” with a picture of Aria and Dad. Any time she needs a little extra comforting her teachers can cuddle up and read this story with her. You can do this with any book format! Or, just send in a few laminated family photos to share.

A mixtape of beloved tunes.
  • My husband and I are both musicians, so music plays a large role in our household. You don’t have to be a musician to enjoy and reap benefits of the music with your child. So much research highlights the benefits that listening to and enjoying music has on a developing brain. We play in a ska band together, and Aria seems to be soothed by reggae music (I play saxophone and he plays bass, so I think it has a familial connection with her). I’ll be making a personalized CD that can be played in her classroom when she needs a little bit more help falling asleep. Do you have a few favorite songs that you enjoy listening to with your little one? Try making a “mixtape” and sending it in!

A comforting item.
  • Although Ari is a newborn, she already has a few items that make her day a little bit easier. Her zipadee zip that we use for naptimes and a binky are “must-haves” to ensure that she feels at home (I’ve learned this the hard way when trying to lay her down for a nap at her grandparents!) In order to make sure that she has exactly what she needs each day I’ve bought duplicates of her favorite objects and let her use both of them at different times. When she starts at school I’ll leave one set there so that it makes travel and packing a little easier for mom and dad and makes sure she has what she needs. This can be done with a lovey, stuffed animal, anything really! This is appropriate for children of all ages in early childhood education.

A predictable drop-off.
  • Children thrive on routine and knowing what to expect, and a predictable drop-off is at the top of the list for making the transition to school much easier. It can be hard to leave the room when your child is upset, and I’ve had to do this (moreso for myself thus far) already when she has been spending time at her grandparents house. When I drop her off, I know she might cry. I can spend a minute or two comforting her and saying goodbye, but then I know it’s important to leave and say “Mommy loves you and I will be back after work” and leave. The scariest part for little ones is wondering if their mom and dad will be coming back at the end of the day. I can’t come back into the room because that can be confusing to her. By letting her know I will return, leaving as expected, and leaving her in the loving arms of her teachers I am setting a routine that she expects daily which helps to bring comfort. This exact technique may not work for all children and families (and is emotionally easier said than done), but find something that works for you daily!

These are just a few strategies that can help bring home to school. Do you have any other techniques that you’ve found useful? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!