By Nicky Champ
Not only are you moving through the transition from full-time parent to working parent, but you may also be navigating mixed feelings about leaving your child in the care of others or starting ‘big’ school.
For many parents, the return to work after parental leave coincides with the availability of daycare spots. This period marks a significant time of transition as families adapt to new routines and roles. In this article, we explore practical strategies for a smooth transition, emphasising the importance of preparation, communication, and self-care. Additionally, we’ll discuss how organisations can support their employees during this pivotal time.
One key piece of advice for parents returning to work is to initiate the daycare transition before the first day on the job. Planning ahead allows parents to be present during the orientation phase, rather than juggling work commitments and a child adjusting to a new environment simultaneously.
“Trust me you’ll be grateful to have to time to be present or not be rushing to a meeting when your child might need you stay a little longer,” says Transitioning Well co-founder, Justine Alter.
Planning ahead offers a buffer for unexpected situations, like the sicknesses that come during the initial weeks of childcare..
Taking advantage of the daycare orientation period also provides an opportunity for parents to engage in self-care. Whether it’s a trip to the hairdresser or a few hours of personal time, making the most of this period can contribute to a smoother transition for both parent and child.
Having a well-thought-out transition plan is crucial for managing potential contingencies and ensuring a successful return to work.
Conversations with partners about shared care responsibilities and domestic duties should begin early to avoid stress and misunderstandings once work resumes.
“Once you’re back at work and tired, it makes these conversations a lot harder!” Says Justine. ‘Adopting the motto ‘ask, don’t assume’ with your partner encourages open communication, preventing disappointment stemming from unmet expectations.
‘For parents of primary school children, fostering independence is key. Playdates with future classmates can help children build social connections, while assigning age-appropriate tasks during holidays, such as unpacking the dishwasher, encourages a sense of responsibility. As the school year begins, involving children in tasks like preparing school lunches reinforces their active role in the process.
High school parents can gain a head start by encouraging their children to read assigned English books over the summer break. This helps to alleviate stress during the school year says Justine (who has two kids in high school and one in their second year of university).
By recognising the challenges faced by employees during this transition, organisations can play a pivotal role in facilitating a smooth return to work. Offering increased flexibility, the option to work from home, and autonomy in managing workload can significantly alleviate the stress associated with balancing professional and parental responsibilities.
The transition to daycare and school represents a significant milestone for both parents and children. By adopting a proactive and organised approach, parents can navigate this period well. Organisations, in turn, can contribute to the wellbeing of their employees by implementing supportive policies that acknowledge the unique challenges faced during this pivotal time. In fostering a collaborative and understanding environment, both parents and employers can ensure a successful integration between work and family life.
To find out more about how Transitioning Well can help support parents and carers in the workplace, take a look at the Parents and Carers page.