As stay-at-home orders are lifted, many working parents are returning to their jobs and many child care programs are reopening. Parents need to know how the COVID-19 crisis has impacted their child care programs. Here are five tips to help families with young children transition back to child care routines:
- Pay your bill— Parents, you were probably asked to pay at least a portion of your fees while your child care program was closed. While it may seem unfair to pay for care while your child is home with you, charging fees to reserve a child’s space is standard practice for child care centers and it is essential for keeping programs running. The center’s expenses continue even when children are not present. Facility costs like mortgage or rent payments must still be met. Most importantly, staff must be paid. Retaining skilled and experienced teachers and caregivers is one of the biggest challenges in the field of early childhood care and education. Paying your child care fees while your center is closed will help ensure that the staff will be there to welcome your child when they return.
If your family is not yet ready to return to child care and you have an opportunity to pay to hold your spot, do it. The current economic crisis means many child care centers are closing permanently, and it will likely only get harder for families to access early childhood care and education in the future. Do what you can now to retain your family’s relationship with a quality child care program. If your financial situation makes it difficult to pay your fees, contact the director of the program and explain your situation. They may be able to refer you to assistance programs in your community.
- Practice wearing masks at home—
Child care centers are now adapting their health and safety practices to pro
vide as much protection as possible against the spread of COVID-19. In most centers, the staff and parents will be required to wear masks, at least during drop off and pick up. In some centers, children over the age of two will also be required to wear masks. Seeing people in masks and wearing a mask may be difficult for many young children. You can help your child adjust to this new normal by practicing wearing masks at home.
First, offer your child a simple explanation for why people wear masks. For example, “A mask is something people wear that covers their nose and mouth. Wearing a mask helps keep people from getting sick.” Let your child touch and hold your mask before you put it on. Children learn through play, so include masks in silly “peek-a-boo” games or in pretend play. Make little paper masks for your child’s stuffed animals or dolls. Allow your child to pick out or decorate their own masks and let them practice putting them on and taking them off all by themselves.
Prep extra supplies— Most child care centers will now have stricter rules for keeping children’s supplies clean. This means that parents can anticipate the need to bring more items from home to the center each day, as well as the need to bring those items home and wash them more frequently. Check with your child care center to find out what new guidelines are in place, but keep in mind that you will likely need to prep individual meals and snacks, to provide more changes of clothing and extra diapers and wipes, and to more frequently swap out and wash blankets and nap items.
Thank your child care teachers and staff— Professionals working in early childhood care and education were already underpaid and overlooked before the COVID-19 pandemic. While some policy makers and leaders are now recognizing the importance of child care services in rebuilding our economy, your child’s teachers and caregivers have not received the recognition and appreciation they deserve. Be sure to take a moment to tell them how much they mean to your family and thank them every day for their commitment to your child.
Contact your legislators— To ensure that quality care and education is available to all young children, make sure your legislators are making child care a top priority. Advocacy organizations like the National Association for the Education of Young Children and Zero to Three provide guidance for reaching out to legislators and speaking up about the importance of investing in child care and other early childhood services.
To learn more about “The COVID-19 Child Care Crisis: What Parents Need to Know,” visit https://parents.britannica.com/the-covid-19-child-care-crisis-what-parents-need-to-know/.