Whether you have won sole physical custody of your toddler or are sharing custody, you face every Dad’s coming-of-age moment: daycare. Virginia Dads can and should be just as responsible for their toddlers’ social and intellectual development as Virginia Moms.

Practice with Others (Tips #1 and #2)

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) suggests introducing other adults to your child early and often, so your toddler understands that other adults (not only Dad and Mom) are looking out for your toddler’s welfare. Begin with family such as grandparents, but be sure to include neighbors, close friends, teens, and workers in familiar settings like the grocery store and doctor’s office.

NAEYC also suggests taking your toddler to library read-aloud time, so little Debbie or Dougie hears someone else’s voice read stories. This also sets the tone for how “Big Kids” sit and listen, and socialize.

Practice Poopies (Tips #3 and #4)

(Yeah, yeah, we were going to go Number One and Number Two, but we are classier than that)

Learn about the daycare’s toileting procedures. Little children go through learning and development stages, including toilet training. Understand the expectations of the daycare and explain them (in short, frequently repeated conversations) to your toddler.

Most children during toilet training are intrigued to discover that just about every building they will visit in a day’s activities has indoor plumbing. Get your child accustomed to unfamiliar toilet facilities by making a point of visiting them in the home improvement store, fast food restaurant and other spots. This reassures your toddler that she or he does not have to withhold natural urges they are just learning to control.

Practice Getting Ready (Tip #5)

Daycare helps working fathers just as much as it benefits young children. Anything you go through to get your little guy or gal ready is mirrored by the steps you must take to get yourself ready. Practice the evening routines to prepare for the morning scurry.

NAEYC encourages early bedtimes and early rising so your toddler is on a schedule that works for you, without a morning race.

Practice the Morning Routine (Tips #6 and #7)

Besides awakening with extra time in the morning, get accustomed to washing, dressing, eating and packing for the day. Sit down and eat with your child — set a good example by sitting down, calmly, to have your toast and coffee with little Debbie or Dougie.

The two of you should pack your toddler’s backpack. Your child, encouraged by all the “big kid” talk, may be embarrassed to pack the favorite plush toy or blanket; make a point of including it in a natural way, to provide reassurance during your child’s long day at the care center.

Practice Saying Goodbye (Tips #8, #9 and #10)

The experts at NAEYC come through yet again with wise advice for separating at daycare. The more familiar your toddler is with temporary separation, the more smoothly the morning Goodbye will run. Introduce your tyke to the primary caregiver and be prepared to join in a quick play group before departing.

Children thrive on patterns and predictability, so let your child develop a Goodbye ritual. Perhaps you both hold hands while looking at the daycare’s aquarium, then put both hands on the side of the tank, and then you go. Whatever it is, stick with it, says NAEYC.

One practice never to pursue: Leaving your child without saying goodbye. Sneaking out, thinking you are lessening your child’s anxiety, is wrong. Your child will soon realize you are gone, and be completely unsure about your return, says British-based BabyCentre.

Practice by the Hour (Tip #11)

Your daycare may allow a flexible approach, in which you slowly introduce a longer and longer day to your toddler by beginning with a Dad and Me visit of an hour’s duration, then a drop-off program that begins with an hour or two before moving up to all day daycare.

The words you say at this point will matter less than your actions. Your child will be confused by your first disappearance, even when you say you are returning in a short time. It is your return itself that the child remembers, and begins to trust, say the experts at Today’s Parent.

A Law Practice (Tip #12)

Attorneys often hear from clients after custody or visitation arrangements are made final. Divorced Dads get pushback from their ex-wives when any little issue arises at daycare. An ex-spouse may look for ammunition to make a fresh case against Dad, claiming you cannot handle custody.

Avoid giving your ex-wife a reason to drag you back into court by ensuring your daycare transition goes smoothly. You may well benefit from an hour’s consulting time with your family law lawyer, picking up good ideas to make the move to daycare uneventful and uplifting.

A quick call to The Firm For Men at 757-383-9184, or reaching out to us online, will help you connect to an experienced family law attorney who has counseled clients about everything from daycare to divorce. With offices in Newport News and Virginia Beach, we proudly stand ready to help all of Hampton Roads and beyond!

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