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Ease stay-at-home kids into daycare?
Q: I am beginning a job as a guidance counselor in a public school. My children (ages 5 years, 4 years and 15 months) will need child care (outside of our home) for the first time in their lives.

I have enrolled them together in a registered daycare but am very concerned about my 15-month-old who is basically non-verbal at this time, and my 4-year-old, who has always had a difficult time adjusting to new situations and people. I have checked references and called the state to research the agency, and everything checks out.

My 5-year-old will be in kindergarten for the first part of her daycare day. Also, all three of my kids will only need daycare for three days a week since my job is only part-time. I believe I will love the job, but hate the fact that I will not be home for my kids. We need the extra income right now to pay for our new mortgage. What can I do to make sure that the transition is smooth for my 15-month-old and 4-year-old?

A: It sounds as though you are planning well and carefully, and consequently you probably won't have any major problems. Good advance planning solves more problems than frantic trial and error after problems develop.

In my way of thinking, it is good that you plan to work only three days a week. Part-time work is easier on the children and on you. That schedule will facilitate a good flow between the home and child care environment.

Try to begin your children's enrollment a couple of weeks before you begin your job (may not be feasible), so you can spend time with all of them in the child care setting and observe their reactions to the situation. If the 15-month-old is already securely attached to you, chances are he or she will have little trouble adapting to the new arrangement. Expect some tears for the first few days, but then leave and come back to observe inconspicuously. You may be surprised to see how quickly the tears dry up after you leave! Remind the 4-year-old that his/her brothers and sisters are near by. And ask the director of the center to let your child call you each day during the first week or so.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education