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6 Harsh Truths About Daycare Every Parent Needs to Know

Sending your child to daycare soon? It's a big transition for all involved. It's better if you know these six truths.

Parents in the United States are offered a woefully short amount of parental leave after the birth of their child. And if both parents have jobs, the quick return to work often makes daycare a necessity. But finding, paying for, and leaving a child at daycare, whether in a private setting or a child care center is easier said than done.

The harsh truth about daycare is that an overwhelming amount of options don’t necessarily translate to an easier time for parents or kids. And the outcomes of placing a kid in daycare may not be at all what parents expect. Here’s what parents need to consider.

1. Daycare is Expensive

The cost of daycare varies from state to state. Parents who live in the big coastal cities, for instance, will likely find themselves paying hundreds more per month than those who live in smaller communities in the midwest.

The cost can also change based on whether parents opt for a name-brand daycare establishment or seek a home care environment. Either way, parents looking to send a child to daycare after parental leave should expect to pay around $1,000 a month.

2. The Daycare Transition Will Be Tough For Everyone

Many parents may worry that transitioning to daycare will be terribly difficult for a child. But it can be just as difficult for parents who have to deal with their own separation anxiety and often, guilt, for having to leave a child with a stranger.

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There are other considerations beyond the emotional too. For instance, a child who is exclusively breastfed will need breastmilk at daycare. That means a mother will need to start pumping. Also, the rhythm of daycare may throw off carefully constructed schedules that parents have established at home. Expect that there will be some amount of adjustment that will need to occur at home when a kid enters daycare.

3. Daycare May be Better for Kids than Staying Home with a Relative

Many parents might think it better to skip the cost and frustration associated with daycare. But the fact is that children may actually benefit more from a daycares social environment than being home with someone they know.

One recent study from Sorbonne University found that children in high-quality early childcare programs fared better in social and behavioral metrics than children cared for at home by a close relative or nanny. Moreover, their social skills and good behavior lasted well into their elementary school years.

4. Not All Daycare is Created Equal

Some parents might expect that all daycares have to meet certain requirements to operate. And while it’s true that most states require child care centers to be regulated, there are occasional exceptions for religious facilities or home care facilities with small programs.

That means that parents seeking a good daycare or childcare facility will want to be very discerning when making their choice. Parents visiting child care facilities should use all their senses. Does it smell clean and pleasant? Does it look in good repair and properly childproofed? Is there a definite schedule? Do the care providers seem pleasant? All of this should be considered but parents should also be prepared to trust their gut.

5. Parents Should Focus on Care Rather Than Learning

Parents feel increasing pressure to get kids learning early, but it’s not necessary to seek out an educationally rigorous child care center in hopes of giving kids a head start in life. In fact, the essential skills that kids need to start school are social, emotional and self-regulatory skills. Those important skills are best learned in an environment that focuses on care and play, more than education.

What’s more, a high-quality child care center that offers a child a chance to explore through play and socialization may give all the foundation a child needs to enter kindergarten, without the necessity of attending preschool.

6. Your Kid Might Reach a Milestone in Daycare

This is perhaps the harshest truth of all: Your kid does not stop developing when they are away from you. That means that the odds are pretty good that your kid might roll, crawl, walk or say their first word while they are at child care. Be clear how you want the providers to handle these situations. Some parents may simply prefer not to know. Others request pictures or videos. No matter what just be happy that your kid is reaching the milestones at all.