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Mom Going Back to Work
Q: My husband and I both work, and until now my mom has babysat our four-year-old daughter. I found a wonderful daycare/preschool for her to attend, however she doesn't understand what working means. Is it possible that she feels sad that I leave her? I feel like I don't get to spend enough time with her. What do I do if she cries when I leave her? How do we together get through the first few days? She is very shy outside of the home.
A: When you talk with your daughter about going to preschool, emphasize the opportunity she will have to play with other children. You may be surprised at how quickly she adjusts when she begins to have fun playing with the others. It's to be expected that your daughter doesn't understand going to work; most children don't associate moms with any work other than that at home until around age six.
You can help with your daughter's adjustment by making the transition gradual. Begin by taking her to visit the preschool, with you or your mom staying with her for an hour or so. On the next visit, stay for a little while, then leave for a short time. Do this over several days, building the time that your daughter is there without you. Be sure that you make time in the evenings and on the weekends to play or read with her.
If your daughter cries on the first day, she will most likely be okay. Leave, letting the teacher know he or she can call you if your daughter cries for an extended period of time. When you get to work, you can always call to check on her as well. Make sure the teachers know ahead of time about your daughter's shyness so that they can help her make friends.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.