Alleviating parental concerns around child care

Published on Wednesday, 19 June 2019
Last updated on Tuesday, 31 December 2019

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According to a national parenting survey, parents in Auckland are more likely to feel 'extreme concern' about putting their children in day care, than parents in any other city.

The nib Station of the Nation Parenting Survey involved 1,200 parents around the country and found 12 per cent of them were 'extremely concerned' about putting their children in day care when they went back to work, with a further 17 per cent admitting they were 'very concerned'.

When it came to Auckland parents, 17 per cent said they were 'extremely concerned' about child care. Here, we look at why parents feel this way and how to alleviate feelings of worry and guilt when enrolling your child in care.

Why are NZ parents concerned about child care?

It seems both financial and emotional pressures are causing anxiety amongst parents.

Chief Executive of the Early Childhood Council, Peter Reynolds says child care is more expensive in Auckland than in other cities, and all around the country, families are juggling hours of work with those of child care.

Fees soon add up for parents with multiple children, and Papakura mum-of-three, Natasha Zyzalo, says that day care fees are particularly onerous for children under the age of three, before the 20 Hours ECE subsidy kicks in for preschoolers.

Shelley Anderson is Executive Director of Home and Family Counselling and says child care is taking an emotional and financial toll, on many families. It's common for parents to feel guilty or anxious about putting their baby into day care from a very young age when they have to return to work.

How can you feel better about putting your child in care?

When it comes to emotional pressures, it is natural for you to feel some trepidation about putting your child in care, especially if you've never done this before, your little one is suffering from separation anxiety or you’re experiencing feelings of parent guilt.

To help put your mind at ease, here are some child care approaches that can have a positive impact:

Find a fantastic child care service

If you've never used child care before, then the best way to ease your concerns is to find a high quality and reliable service to look after your child and make the transition smooth for everyone.

There are many different child care options, and the Child Care Compass will help you identify the best service for your family.

Once you have established the type of care you're looking for, our Child Care Search can help you find high quality local services. Put together a list of possibilities then take the time to visit a range of services, talk to carers, and explore premises.

At the end of the day, you're looking for a service that will nurture your child's emotional, physical and intellectual development, and leave you feeling comfortable in doing so. It helps to ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there a good match between your child's temperament and needs, and the carers' ability to meet them?
  • Are there small numbers of children to carers?
  • Does your child's prospective carer have the potential to develop a continuous, strong and positive relationship with your child? (Keep in mind that quality care isn't a substitute for the primary parent-child bond, so you're not going to be 'replaced').
  • Have the staff been trained in health, safety (CPR) and child development?

Prepare your family for the transition to child care

It’s important to prepare both your child and yourself for that first day at child care, so once you've found your service and enrolled, here are three ways to allay any concerns about your child's happiness and day-to-day experience:

  • Visit the service before your child starts so you are familiar with the environment, carers and activities on offer.
  • Learn how the service runs. For example, ask about the pick-up time, daily programme and what your child needs to bring each day.
  • Remind yourself that separating from your child is an opportunity for them to learn and grow – it's a positive thing

Employ some positive drop-off strategies

When the big day arrives, keep in mind that every person is different, and your child might run off without looking back or cling to you inconsolably.

If your child is struggling with the idea of saying goodbye (and you are too), then it can help to:

  • Be positive about the day ahead, explaining what your child will be doing and who will be caring for them
  • In the early days, allow plenty of time for your child to settle in, showing them around and introducing them to other children may help
  • Implement a short routine, like 'the kissing hand' then leave straightaway, instead of drawing out the inevitable
  • Avoid 'sneaking out' – always tell your child that you're going and you'll be coming back later
  • Try to pick up your child at the same time each day, and for the first week or so, try to be a little bit early

Our article on Strategies for Easing Separation Anxiety contains lots of helpful tips, and although it can be upsetting to leave your child at care (especially if they're upset too), focus on the positives and remember that things will get easier.

Learn how to manage feelings of parent guilt

Whether you're returning to work earlier than you’d like or not sure if the service is a perfect fit for your child, it's natural to feel a little concerned or guilty when you first put them into care.

Guilt is a sign of the deep emotional connection and sense of responsibility you feel towards your child, so focus on managing this guilt and learning to be happy with the decisions you make. It helps to concentrate on the outcome of decisions, not the opportunity costs of those choices, and remind yourself that you are a wonderful parent who enriches your child's life every day.

It's important to find high quality care that you and your child are comfortable with. This really helps to allay feelings of worry and guilt, and it sets your child up for an excellent early learning experience – which you'll both feel happy about.

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