Going back to work will be different for everyone, including people who work in child care. Because of COVID-19, teachers have changed how they care for and educate children to follow new health and safety standards. Parents, here are 5 tips to get ready for going back to care outside the home.
1. Practice wearing your mask at home
Early childhood teachers are asked to think about wearing masks while caring for children. Seeing people in masks and wearing a mask may be difficult for many young children. You can help your child adjust to this by:
- Practice wearing masks at home, and taking them on and off.
- Let your child touch and hold your mask before you put it on.
- Talk about why we wear masks in simple terms like: wearing a mask helps keep people from getting sick because it covers their nose and mouth.
- Children learn through play, so include masks in silly “peek-a-boo” games or in pretend play - or make little paper masks for your child’s stuffed animals or dolls.
- Make children’s masks individual and unique for them.
- Allow your child to ask questions and express their feelings.
Note: Masks should NOT be worn by children under age 2.
Read more guidance from Austin Public Health here.
2. Understand tuition and fees
Since March, you may have paid a part of child care fees even if your program was closed. This may seem unfair, but it helps keep your child’s spot at the center and is important to help your program reopen.
Costs continue even when children are not present. A recent survey found that nearly 1 out of 3 providers said they would not survive being closed for more than two weeks without financial support. Home-based providers are particularly vulnerable. They often live paycheck to paycheck, and don’t qualify for unemployment benefits. Paying your child care fees will help ensure that the teachers you know and love will be there to welcome your child when they return.
The decision to pay fees while care is closed depends on what families can afford. The cost of child care - even in good times - is a stretch for many. Reach out to your program director to discuss what makes sense for your family. Learn about financial help available through the Texas Workforce Commission here. (The Austin/Travis County assistance program currently has a waitlist, but families are encouraged to learn more and apply).
3. Talk to your child about new drop-off and pick-up routines
- Know the new drop-off routine ahead of time and talk to your child about it in advance.
- Walking your child into his or her classroom will likely not be allowed.
- Goodbye hugs will happen outside of the center.
- Have confidence and composure at drop-off. Your child will be looking to you to know how to act.
- Your calmness will help their transition - and your child will know if you're smiling, even if it’s behind a mask.
Child care centers will likely have stricter rules for keeping things clean. Be prepared to bring more items from home each day and wash them more often. Find out what new rules are in place. You will likely need to provide more changes of clothing, extra diapers and wipes, and nap items.
Children can’t reliably social distance, and social distancing goes against what nurturing child care is all about. But new rules have been established so children come into contact with less students. Some safety measures include smaller classroom sizes with fewer students per teacher. There will also be less moving between classrooms, fewer children out during playground time, and more space between children at learning stations and tables.
4. Become an early education advocate
Speak up so that high-quality early education and care is accessible to ALL young children in Central Texas. The new standards and safety measures cost money and programs already operated on razor thin margins. Providers are now forced to have smaller class sizes, bringing in less money. Advocating for help at the local, state, and federal levels is critical to helping the child care industry survive. Your voice is an important part of the conversation.
Find your elected officials here and let them know that affordable high-quality child care is important, so that all children get the start they deserve to reach their full potential.
5. Show gratitude to teachers
Most importantly, people working in early childhood care and education were already underpaid and overlooked before the COVID-19 pandemic. While some leaders are now recognizing the importance of child care services, your child’s teachers and caregivers have not received the recognition, appreciation, and compensation they deserve.Many centers made the decision to remain open to serve essential works. These providers are doing everything possible to keep their staff and the families they serve safe. Early educators are committed to giving our youngest children the social, emotional, and educational support they need.
Tell teachers how much they mean to your family, and thank them every day for their commitment to your child.
In Austin/Travis County, the Success By 6 Coalition works to ensure all children enter Kindergarten happy, healthy, and prepared to succeed in school and beyond. Learn more and join us at www.successby6atx.org.