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Home Family Parenting Advice Trouble making daycare pickup — Good Parenting

Trouble making daycare pickup — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

There were some good tips in your May 20th column Hard time leaving daycare — Good Parenting about being ready to take on parenting duties after work is done. My work is part time in the evenings, so it’s my husband who’s responsible two days a week for getting the children from the childcare center before it closes. Though I can’t do anything about it, I find myself looking at the clock at 6:15 wondering if he’s going to make it. He has a long commute through heavy traffic and last week he incurred our first ever “late fee” for coming in after closing time.

Any advice?

Clock Watcher with Hands Tied

Don’t miss last week’s column When kids have irrational fears — Good Parenting

Dear Clock Watcher,

I sympathize with his plight. As someone who doesn’t always pace my workload well, I often fight the clock trying to cram more into a day than time allows. We don’t want to keep children waiting for parental attention, nor dinner.

So here’s some advice for your husband and all other time fighters with children.

Set a “gotta go” time that allows for normal traffic, roadwork, weather, errands and that inevitable last minute “just one more thing” at work and subtract 10 minutes. At that time a conversation needs to be tactfully cut short with “I need to get going, so let’s plan to talk again . . .” and set a time to do so. You essentially stop working 10 minutes before your leaving time. Devote these 10 minutes to lining up tasks for your next work day (or for after the children are asleep).

Picking children up from child care on time affects a lot of people, most importantly, your children. Having worked in a child care center, I can tell you that children quickly learn the typical daily sequence in which children are picked up. No, they don’t tell time, but they can figure out the order. So if Dad is always the last or next to last parent, the children shouldn’t mind. But if you normally pick them up at 5, and Dad doesn’t get there until past 6:15, the difference may be hard for them to bear. If this is the case, find out which children are also likely to be there near the end of the day and review these names with your children. They’ll be reassured to know that on Tuesday and Thursday (if these are Daddy’s days) they’ll be picked up after Sammy and Teresa and Rani, and around the same time as, or just after, Ellie and Roddy. That way at least they won’t be watching child after child get picked up wondering if Daddy will ever come.

If you’re able to take a quick break, and the center lets teachers use cell phones for classroom use, see if you can Face Time sometime during the afternoon. Barring that, childcare teachers are usually trained to support children’s bonds with their parents by such activities as helping children make pictures for, write letters to, and take photographs and videos to share with parents later.

Late fees are instituted to assure professional childcare providers that their personal time is respected. This is an industry with wide variation in scheduling to meet the needs of working parents, which means that in some cases a person might work well over an 8-hour day. A family child care provider – a person who cares for up to 8 children in her own home ¬– might work anywhere from 10 to 12 hours each day to accommodate commuting times and different work shifts for the parents of children in her care. If she’s been on duty since 6:30 a.m., she is probably anxious to be relieved to tend to her own family’s needs. Centers cover a wide span, too, however usually with different people with overlapping shifts. If closing time is 6:30 p.m., a late arriving parent is cutting into personal time which might mean delaying the staff person’s dinner or making her late to an evening class at college.

Because your husband’s commute makes a timely pick up difficult, have a frank conversation with the end-of-day staff person. If 15 minutes at $15 is tolerable for the staff, and your family can afford it, your husband could relax a bit about the traffic. If, however, the staff person is inconvenienced by his late pick-ups, you might need to make other arrangements. Could you make friends with another family that uses the same childcare center? Perhaps the children could go home with the other family — for a fee or for reciprocal babysitting, and Dad can pick them up from the friends’ home.

Or, maybe it’s time to look into finding another arrangement. A center closer to Dad’s work would give the children more time in the car, but spare Dad some of the rush to go get them.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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