Are you looking to open your own child care center, but not quite sure where to start? Before you start buying toys, and bringing in customers, you need to get a license. Proper licensing of your center ensures your operation isn’t only compliant with the law, it keeps the children in your care safe.
Each state has its own rules and requirements for people to get a child care license application approved and start their own daycare business. If you live in Texas, all of its child care licensing is handled and administered by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its Child Care Licensing (CCL) Division.
There are four types of child care licenses in Texas you’ll choose to apply for depending on the type of operation you decided to run:
Listed Family Homes
Registered Child Care Homes
Licensed Child Care Homes
Licensed Child Care Center
Child Care Operation Types
Before starting your license application process, you need to figure out what type of child care operation you’re going to run—this will determine which type of license you need to apply for.
There are several types of child care operations you’ll most likely be operating under; if you’re not sure what type of operation your business is considered or have questions about the application process, your local CCL office can help and make sure you’re applying correctly.
Licensed Child Care Home. In licensed family child care home operations, service is provided inside the license holder’s home. Care is expected for at least two hours per day (but fewer than 24 hours per day) and for at least three days per week. The operation can care for a maximum of 12 children who are up to 13 years of age. This operation type will apply for the Licensed Child Care Home license.
Registered Child Care Home. This type of operation provides child care services inside the license holder’s home. Care is expected for at least four hours per day, at least three days per week, and for at least three weeks in a row. Registered homes can take care of at most 12 children at any given time. This operation type will apply for the Registered Child Care Home license.
Listed Family Home. In listed family homes, family child care services are provided inside the home of the license holder. Care is expected to be provided to children from newborn age to 13 years old. The license holder should provide care for at least four hours per day, for three or more days per week, and for at least three weeks in a row. This operation type will apply for the Listed Family Home license.
Child Care Center. This child care option operates in a facility outside of the license holder’s home. They are allowed to provide care for seven or more kids under the age of 14. They need to operate for at least two hours per day, three days per week. They may not provide overnight care to the children. This operation type will apply for the Licensed Child Care Center license.
Before or After School Programs. This type of child care operation provides child care for children before and after school hours and during holidays. They should also be open and operating for at least two hours every day, three days per week. Before or After School programs are allowed to care for children from ages three to 11. This operation type will apply for the Licensed Child Care Center license.
Texas’s Licensing Process
The process for obtaining your child care license is similar for both home-based and center-based providers. Here are the steps and resources you need to get your child care license in Texas. More information about Texas’s s licensing process can be found on the Texas Health and Human Services website.
Step One: Attend a Pre-Application Class
The Texas child care license application process requires you to attend a pre-application class before you file an application for your in-home family child care license. For center-based child care operations, you need to contact your local CCL office as well as attend a pre-application class. These classes discuss information like the forms you need to submit along with your license application package. You can find a nearby CCL office on the Texas HHS website.
Step Two: Review Texas’s Licensing Requirements
There are a ton of small details about obtaining a child care license in Texas that can be easy to forget about if you’re not careful. When you’re studying Texas’s licensing requirements, don’t forget to do your research on aspects of your business such as:
Municipal zoning bylaws
Building codes (for both in-home and centers)
Minimum operating standards for child safety
If you have questions about the requirements or need help with your licensing application process, all applicants can contact their local licensing office for more information or assistance.
Step Three: Submit Your CCL Application
After you’ve attended a pre-application class, you can now begin putting together your Child Care License application. Part of your application should include filling out the forms included in the information package you received in your pre-application class. If you’re applying for the Licensed Child Care Center designation license, you need to submit these forms:
Form 2911: Child Care Licensing Governing Body & Director Designation
Form 2948: Plan of Operation for Licensed Child Care Operations
Form 2985: Affidavit for Applicants for Employment with a Licensed Child Care Operation
Form 2760: Controlling Person—Child Care Licensing
Step Four: Create and Register Your Child Care Provider Account
Congratulations! If you’re a center-based operation, at this step your application has been approved, you’ve been given an operation number, and you can legally begin your family child care center. The last step is to create a child care regulation account for your center where you’ll submit any additional forms and background checks, as well as update your center’s information.
For at-home centers, you will create a child care licensing account after your pre-application class since your account is where you submit your application and other licensing documents for approval. A few days after you submit your licensing application, a representative from the Texas CLL office will review and approve your application. Once you have been approved and have received your license number, you’re all set to start your child care operation!
Toys are an essential part of any child care center. You don’t need to buy the latest gadgets for kids in your classroom to have fun. In fact, the more simple the toys, the more opportunities your kids have to be imaginative and create their own world!
It’s important to match the toys you get with the type of children your child care center will be taking care of. If you’re primarily caring for infants, you shouldn’t give them toys that pose a choking hazard like Legos. And if you’re taking care of older kids, you need to buy toys that will keep them engaged and prepare them for preschool and elementary school.
Keep in mind that not all of the toys in this article will be suitable for every age. Make sure you have a wide variety of age-appropriate toys if your child care center will serve multiple age ranges. And be sure to never leave children unattended. Here are some of our favorite essential toys for daycare centers that would be a great addition to any center.
Arts & Crafts
Arts and crafts time at your child care center can be a fun way to keep kids occupied during the day while also helping to develop their fine motor skills, problem solve, and express their creativity. Plus, it’s always fun to see kids show off their project to their parents during pickup. For daycares, you’ll always want to have some basic art supplies on hand since you never know when that creative spark will hit.
Make sure you have aprons on hand to keep everyone’s clothes from getting dirty, as well as lots of cleaning supplies in case something gets spilled (and it probably will!) Some basic arts and crafts supplies you should have ready include:
Colorful construction paper
Glue (both glue sticks and bottles)
Different sizes paint brushes
Glitter (use at your own discretion!)
Newspaper (to cover surfaces for messy projects)
Toys To Develop Fine Motor Skills
Being able to write, eat, use scissors, get dressed, and hold objects all require using fine motor skills. Developing these movements at a young age will prepare young kids for more advanced skills as they grow older. You can use fun toys and activities at your daycare to encourage young children to hone this skill naturally. Here are some fun toys that can help young kids at your center develop fine motor skills:
Wood building blocks
Small foam balls
Dolls and other pretend play items
Sensory bins with rice, water beads, sand, etc.
Some daycare centers provide educational services in addition to keeping children safe while their parents are gone for the day. These formative years are a great time to teach basic skills such as letters, numbers, interpersonal skills, and even foreign languages! More and more parents are looking for daycares that include a learning curriculum, so you’ll have a leg up on your competition if you provide these services. Since kids at this age shouldn’t sit in a desk all day, toys can be a natural addition to your teaching curriculum and keep kids engaged during lessons.
Every daycare should have books available for every reading level (and for story time!) You can often get children’s books for cheap at second hand stores and scholastic book clubs. Make sure you have a comfy area at your center with a soft rug and several pillows for a nice reading nook. Other educational toys you should have at your center include:
Musical instruments like drums and whistles
Painting and drawing supplies
Toys For Outdoor Play
Every kid loves to play outdoors. Not only does playing outside promote physical activity, it helps younger kids practice their motor skills, learn how to play well in groups and share toys, and promotes creativity. Setting aside time at your daycare for unstructured play time outside of the classroom will also help get rid of all that extra energy that gets pent up when kids are stuck inside all day.
If you have an outdoor play area at your center with a fence already installed, perfect! But if you’re running your daycare from your home, you need to make sure you have a fence to keep kids from running out into the street. Outdoor toys should be durable and easy to clean. If possible, have separate toys for inside and outside play to keep any dirt or other debris outside as much as possible. Try to have some of these basic outdoor toys at your daycare center:
Since germs and viruses can live on surfaces for several days, your center needs to regularly clean your classroom’s toys today to prevent the spread of germs and limit illnesses. Many parents are still wary of COVID-19, so having a regular disinfecting schedule can help keep your customers at ease. Toys that have been placed in a child’s mouth or that have been contaminated by other bodily fluids need to be thoroughly cleaned before the kids play with them again. Make sure to follow these steps to properly sanitize your classroom toys:
High-quality child care services are in high demand right now. Opening up a daycare is a great way to test your entrepreneurial skills and serve local families in the process. But just like any other venture, you need to have a solid business plan in place well before opening your doors to the public.
Thankfully, you don’t need an MBA to run a successful business—just some careful planning and a lot of patience. We’ve put together some tips on creating a daycare business plan that will help get your center off the ground.
Who Should Have a Child Care Business Plan?
Unless you’re planning on starting the next Amazon or Nike, your business plan can be relatively simple. Business plans are simply to help you solidify your goals, and to create a roadmap on how you’re going to achieve those goals for your new business.
Our business plan roadmap tips will be most helpful to those starting brand new daycares, but the topics we touch on can be helpful for other types of child care businesses. This includes centers who have been operating for a while but need to rethink their business strategy, preschools, or people who want to invest in a daycare franchise.
Before we get down to business, let’s remember that your daycare business plan doesn’t have to be the most professional-looking document in the world. They are mainly for you to help wrap your head around everything you need to do before opening. As long as the business plan is helpful for you, it’s doing its job.
The first part of your business plan should be to nail down the description of your business. Seems easy, but it takes a lot of introspection. This is where you will talk about your motivation for opening a daycare, a mission statement, and any goals you have for your new business. Is there a number of customers you want to hit your first year? What will motivate you to keep going when enrollments take a dive? Putting these things on paper will help make your business more tangible, and help guide your more granular business decisions going forward.
Daycare Licensing and Accreditation
Before getting too far into your research, you need to check what the daycare licensing and accreditation rules are in your state. This will set rules for your business such as the amount of children you’re legally allowed to care of, the required ratio of child-to-staff, and staff training requirements. Accreditations also show parents that your daycare meets certain quality, safety, and academic standards.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) are the most common accreditation organizations in the U.S. Once you have a better understanding of what standards are set for daycares in your state, you use that as a guide for other parts of your business plan like pricing, staff needs, and health and safety measures.
The next part of your child care business plan is to do some research on the daycare market. You probably already know that starting a business is always hard, but what does the daycare industry as a whole look like? What is it projected to look like in the next few years? Right now in the middle of a global pandemic, child care centers are struggling to stay open—but they’re still an absolute necessity for many families. What does that mean for opening a daycare center right now? The market research guide from the U.S. Small Business Administration is a great place to start. You’ll want to look at factors like:
Pricing. What enrollment rates and pricing models are common for daycares in your area? Location. Will you be competing with a lot of other child care centers in your preferred neighborhood? Demand. Are there lots of young families in your area? Or are you living in a child care desert? Economic Indicators. What does the average income and employment rate look like in the community?
Part of your market analysis will be to do some research on your competition. Daycare services across the country are in high demand, but does your preferred neighborhood already have a successful center you’ll have to compete with? Do some research on the other child care centers in your preferred area of operation (and maybe a little further) to see who you’ll be up against.
You’ll want to look at their pricing model, the services they offer, and anything else that makes them stand out. Maybe you’ll find a service they’re not offering that you can use to your advantage in your own center. You’ll also want to look at the demographics in your preferred area of operation. What’s the median income bracket? Are there a lot of young families close by? Are your competitors offering services you can’t yet compete with yet?
You have two main options for where to set up your daycare center: inside your home or renting out a space. Which one you decide to do will depend mainly on your business goals, but here are some other factors to consider:
Cost. Renting out a daycare facility will cost more than simply setting up shop at home. Commute. You’ll save time and money from not having to commute to work every day. Home life. It’s difficult for home-run daycares to separate home life and work life. It can also be a strain on other members of your family. Size. Home daycares limit how many kids you are legally allowed to care for, which limits your revenue. Taxes. You may receive more tax benefits from combining your workplace with your home.
Now is the time when you need to be brutally honest with yourself about your finances. Your child care business plan needs to include a section about how it will be financially run:
Are you expecting to receive or apply for any outside funding like grants, community assistance, or donations? What types of insurance will you need as a small business and employer? What taxes will you need to pay as a small business? What tax benefits can you receive? What one-time startup costs do you have to cover before opening?
After you figure out your one-time and recurring expenses, you’ll start to get a better picture of what your pricing structure should look like.
Part of your financial analysis should include your daycare’s pricing structure for customers. How much you charge for your services will depend on a number of factors. You’ll need to take into account the cost of operating and maintaining your business, the pricing of other daycare services in the area, and what the market can reasonably afford. You can get more information about the average annual and monthly cost of child care in your state at the Economic Policy Institute.
Included in your pricing structure strategy should be how often you’ll be billing customers. Make sure you keep a regular schedule with an automatic billing system to help your own bookkeeping and to make it easy for families to pay you on time.
Don’t forget to look into the tax benefits you can receive for running your own business. Especially if you’re operating your daycare from your own home, you can often write-off business expenses like food, internet, and even portions of your mortgage. You’ll want to keep a detailed log of all personal and business expenses, and maybe even talk to a tax professional to make sure you’re safe from a legal perspective, and getting the most out of your tax benefits.
If you’re planning on opening a daycare inside your own home with just a handful of children to care for, you probably don’t need to hire a staff. But if you are opening a full daycare facility, you’ll need reinforcements. Hiring qualified employees takes a lot of time. You want to make sure they’re (of course) good with kids, have the proper child care certifications, and have a child care philosophy that aligns with you and your center. Along with their base salary, you need to figure out how often you’ll pay staff, any benefits you’ll offer, and how to decide work schedules.
You can’t expect people to automatically start enrolling as soon as you open your doors. In order for parents around the community to hear about you and want to sign up, you need a solid marketing plan. At the very least, part of your business plan needs to touch on how you’re going to approach these parts of marketing your daycare:
Social media. Instagram and Facebook will be your best bets for connecting with young families. Make sure to allot some time every week (or every day if you can swing it) to promote your center on social media. Networking. Connecting face-to-face with parents is crucial for daycares. See what events are happening in your local community and be there to get the word out. Online ads. You’ll want to set aside part of your marketing budget on social media ads and Google ads. This will bring more people to your business and (hopefully) sign up. Website. Every business today needs a professional website. You’ll most likely need to hire a web designer/developer to create your site. Take a look at other daycare websites to see what you want yours to look like.
The Bottom Line
Putting together your daycare business plan before you start buying toys in bulk and stocking up on Clorox wipes will make your day-to-day work run smoother. That way, you’ll be able to focus more of your time on the children—and isn’t that why you want to open a daycare in the first place?
Once you have your child care business plan fleshed out, you want to make sure the everyday operations will run smoothly for you, your staff, and your customers. Smartcare’s child care administration software makes running a daycare simple. Learn more about our services by scheduling a demo or calling our customer service team today.
Managing a childcare business is a unique role that means you have a lot on your plate. You know that staying on top of your parent payments is crucial, but it can fall to the wayside as you focus on the day to day tasks that keep you busy. For this reason, many childcare businesses struggle to track their parent payments – and this can make it hard to pinpoint where the losses are coming from.
Making sure that parents are making payments is key, so that you can spend less time pouring over records, following up with parents that are late and trying to identify where your money is going. We’ve compiled a quick list below to help centers like yours gain your time back and more importantly- stop losing money!
Make Paying Easy
Most of us don’t carry checkbooks in our purses or pockets anymore. If a business is only accepting cash or check, it becomes an obstacle to pay for that service, and much more likely to be forgotten.
Accepting credit or debit cards in house seems like a good move. However, that means you or your staff is taking the time to physically swipe cards and parents have to be present to pay (and again, may forget if they are rushing in our out).
The best solution is to allow parents to pay from anywhere. Using a management software that has an app for parents means that parents can manage their own payment information and make a payment from anywhere.
This reduces the pain points mentioned above, and you’ll get bonus points from the parents who will be happiest with a solution that is easiest for them.
Enforce Late Payment Penalties
No one likes late fees. Parents don’t like to pay them, and Directors and Owners don’t love giving them. However, enforcing them sets a boundary for your parents and lets them know that not paying a bill isn’t acceptable.
Additionally, if using a system to accept parent payments, it’s worth checking out one that has an automatic late fee feature. This helps to take some of the responsibility off your plate. Let your parents know if they are more than 24 hours late (or whatever time frame you allow), that a late fee will automatically be added to their bill and processed when they pay.
Setting that expectation up front means your parents won’t be surprised by late fees and you’ll feel less guilty implementing and enforcing them.
Require or Incentivize for Auto-payment
Allowing parents to autopay has become a necessity. Not only does that mean regular, recurring revenue for your center (with no follow up required on your part!), but it’s also the easiest solution for the parent. Many adults prefer to pay most bills by autopay, so they know they aren’t late and are on top of all of their bills.
Consider requiring autopay enrollment for all parents or offering an incentive to parents who set it up. We’ve seen centers do a small discount on tuition for parents enrolling in autopay or a small increase in tuition for parents who don’t enroll in autopay. You’ll know what will work best for your parents.
Once you’ve set up a system to manage your parent payments, along with automatic late payment fees and most of your parents are on autopay, you should be able to sit back and relax knowing that no revenue is getting lost in the cracks.
Parents and guardians expect daycare providers to make child safety a top priority. It takes more than having a basic first aid kit for the occasional bump and bruise to keep an entire classroom of children safe during the day.
Our child care health and safety checklist will help you assure parents their children will be safe throughout the day in your care.
When families drop off their children at your daycare, they need to be confident your center is safe and secure. You don’t need prison-level security, but you do need to have safety measures and systems in place so your building is safe for you, your staff, and the children.
Position security cameras around your daycare center. One camera should face your parking lot, one needs to be facing the front desk, and other cameras should monitor areas inside the center.
Put exterior-locking childproof locks on all doors and windows.
Schedule regular building health and cleanliness inspections.
Create a sign-in and sign-out system for visitors and non-family members.
Clearly post your federal, state, or local child care center accreditations or certificates where parents and potential customers can see.
Children can get into all sorts of trouble during playtime. Your daycare center and playground needs to be as child-friendly as possible to keep them from getting harmed during the day. These safety measures should mostly be put in place before you open your facility, but regular upkeep or maintenance may be necessary.
Regularly check playground equipment for splinters, protruding nails, rusty areas, or other parts that may need repair.
Keep all unused electrical outlets covered with tamper resistant safety covers.
Put foam padding on hard floors and put down shock-absorbing material under any playground equipment.
Cover any sharp corners with foam or other soft materials.
Keep all electrical cords out of reach of children and away from walking areas.
Keep a gate at the top and bottom of staircases if you’re caring for babies and toddlers.
Make sure toys, furniture, and playground equipment are in good condition.
Regularly check your center for water damage, cracks and holes in the walls, mold, and pets.
Your center needs to be prepared for any natural disaster or emergency situation that may occur during operating hours. How you should handle a power outage, data breach, or active shooter is different than how you should handle a fire, hurricane, or earthquake. Create a plan for each situation so you can keep your staff, yourself, and the children in your care safe no matter what happens.
Keep designated emergency exits clear from toys, furniture, or other objects at all times.
Regularly test and replace fire extinguishers smoke detectors.
Regularly test carbon monoxide detectors.
Schedule regular emergency situation tests and ensure staff are aware of their role in an emergency.
Have a strong data security plan in place to keep people from stealing sensitive and personal customer information.
Place posters with emergency procedure information around the center. Include phone numbers for Poison Control, Child Protective Services, your local fire and police centers, and a map of the building with emergency exit locations.
Share your emergency plans with parents and let them know what they should do in case of an emergency and how to contact you.
The individual health of the children in your classroom is also your responsibility as their daycare provider. Aside from keeping band-aids close at hand, there are other things you should do to make your daycare a safe place for the kids’ physical health.
Keep a well-stocked first aid kit in every room— they should be easily accessible for employees and out of reach of children.
Any over-the-counter medications should be in their original containers.
Any prescription medication parents give you for their child should be stored in their original bottle and inside a childproof container. The bottle should be labeled with the childs’ name, pharmacy name, instructions, dosage, and warnings.
Have a thorough daycare cleaning plan in place to slow the spread of illnesses.
Make sure staff are aware of any children’ food allergies, and have an emergency EpiPen in case of an allergic reaction.
From the moment a child steps foot on your daycare premises until they get picked up at the end of the day, their safety is your responsibility. You should revisit this daycare safety checklist on a regular basis to ensure you’re not forgetting any important safety measures. It not only keeps kids safe, it also gives parents peace of mind throughout the day, knowing their children are safe in your hands while they’re away.
Tips For Teachers On Easing Your Preschooler’s Separation Anxiety
You know the phrase “distance makes the heart grow fonder”? It obviously didn’t factor in preschoolers with separation anxiety. For young children, distance from their parents at the start of a new school year often leads to bouts of kicking, screaming, and crying for them to return.
Starting a new routine like preschool can be a difficult and stressful situation for kids. Their entire lives are changing and they’re thrown into a room of strangers. No wonder so many kids (and their parents) struggle with separation anxiety.
As a teacher, you have the challenging task of helping your students conquer their separation anxiety. Your actions can help every child feel safer on their first day—and every day after.
It may take a while for your students to get used to the new environment and rhythm. Be prepared for the first day of class to be difficult and tear-filled for everyone involved. But once your students have figured how to cope with their emotions, the rest of the school year will be a happier place for the parents, the children, and yourself.
Child Separation Anxiety 101
It’s natural for children to feel scared and anxious when away from their parents. Children with separation anxiety worry excessively when separated from their parents for any amount of time. Their anxieties can manifest themselves in a variety of ways:
They refuse to leave their parent’s side or be away from them at all.
They become easily agitated and have temper tantrums.
They often complain about stomach aches, headaches, or other physical illnesses.
They are anxious or emotional whenever they’re not by their parents.
They worry excessively about losing their caregiver. This symptom could be more prominent this year from COVID-19 worries.
Children can experience separation anxiety for many reasons. Environmental factors like the illness or death of a parent, or a worldwide pandemic, can make children cling to something stable in their lives. A family history of anxiety or mental health issues can also contribute to an anxiety disorder. Some children’s personalities are also more sensitive to being away from their caregivers and can lead to separation anxiety.
There’s no straight answer on how long a student will have separation anxiety issues. It could be just for the first few days or weeks of class until they’re comfortable in their new routine. Their issues could be solved and then return after a family vacation. It could ebb and flow throughout the entire school year. Since there are many home factors that are out of your control as their teacher, it’s crucial for the relationship of both your students and their parents for you to be patient during this stressful time in their lives.
Separation Anxiety Tips for Teachers
Having an open house before school begins is a great way to meet and form relationships with your students and their parents. It also helps the children to meet you in a positive setting alongside their parents. This shows them you’re an adult they can trust. Ask their parents about any health issues you should know about, how their child expresses their feelings, or if they have a preferred emotional coping tactic. Let the students spend time in your classroom beforehand as well so they’re not coming in cold to a new setting on that first day.
Be sure at this time to acknowledge the parent’s feelings about leaving their kids. They could be anxious about the process. This may be the first time they’ve left their child for an extended amount of time, and preparing their child for preschool can be emotionally taxing. Help ease separation anxiety by answering all their questions and let them know how they can contact you should anything happen.
Creating a safe and fun classroom environment will go a long way in helping struggling students ease their separation anxiety. Allow children to bring a security blanket or toy with them if it makes them feel more comfortable. Hang photos of their family members around the classroom so they see a friendly and familiar face every day. Have them make an arts & crafts project to give to their parents at the end of the day. Making the classroom somewhere they want to come back to will help calm their anxieties.
Consider creating a visual daily schedule for students to follow—this helps children understand they didn’t get left behind by their parents and that they will see them again soon.
If a student is struggling to leave their parent at drop off, it’s helpful to have distractions on hand to ease separation anxiety. Toys can steer their attention away from their parents and help get them into the classroom. Let them know what activities they can look forward to—this will make it easier during drop off to get them excited for the day. Remember that your preschooler’s anxiety is a normal part of early childhood. How you, and their parents, handle separation anxiety will make a significant impact until the kids build trust that their parents will always come back at the end of the day.
Separation Anxiety Tips For Parents
As a parent, your behavior will impact how your little one feels about you leaving them for the day. This can be an emotional time for you, especially if this is the longest you’ve been away from your child before. But if you’re making a big fuss during drop off, your child will follow suit and become more anxious themselves. Keep a short and positive goodbye routine. Anything else will prolong your child’s anxiety and cement saying goodbye as a negative process.
Your child takes social cues from you. If they see that you’re nervous or scared for them to leave, it will be much more difficult for them to adjust and grow in this new environment. It’s important to keep a positive attitude and show them how exciting this new adventure will be.
It’s important to acknowledge your own emotions during this time—separation anxiety isn’t something that only children experience. You have a close and special bond with your child. It’s going to be difficult at first giving them space to grow and have new adventures without you.
If you’re feeling separation anxiety, there are things you can do to make this change easier. Now is the perfect time to connect with other parents who may be feeling the same way you are. A support group can help you overcome your anxieties and can be a welcome distraction. You may now have a lot more free time during the day—stay busy with fun activities you didn’t have time to do before. It will help the day pass quicker and help you feel fulfilled in other aspects of your life apart from parenthood.
How To Help Your Special Needs Student With Separation Anxiety
Special needs children will need a little extra TLC when starting preschool. Depending on the child and their level of functionality, they may struggle to understand why their parents are leaving and why their routine is being drastically changed.
It’s normal for special needs children to have difficulties communicating verbally. So when they get anxious from their caregiver leaving, they may react physically, yell, or cry to express their emotions. This can be stressful for everyone in the room. But patience, understanding, and lots of love are key to disarming the situation.
When meeting the parents of your special needs student, get as much background information as possible to avoid future issues:
Stress coping mechanisms. Do they become violent when they act out? What do you do at home when they have an episode? What do you use to help distract them?
Personality. Are they more shy and withdrawn? Or loud and energetic? Do they work well in group settings? Or will group activities stress them out and cause an episode?
Routine. Routine is important for special needs children. They like consistency and struggle when that routine changes. When do they usually eat? Do they have any food limitations or preferences? What books do they like to read? What activities do they like to do outside?
Comfort items. Many children have a physical security blanket or toy that can help them feel safe and connected to what’s already known for them. Do you have an extra comfort item in case it gets lost?
You may have to bring in an assistant or aid trained to work with special needs students. It can be easy to blame yourself and feel like you “failed” because you couldn’t handle the situation alone, but you haven’t. Students with special needs can often be physically and emotionally overwhelming. They can lash out at you and your other students when anxious. That extra set of hands and training will help you create a healthy learning environment for everyone in the classroom.
Separation Anxiety During COVID-19
With the new school year about to start, you may have to face a larger amount of separation anxiety in their classrooms than usual. The last few months have been difficult for parents to navigate. And many children have become accustomed to staying inside and close to their caregiver for the majority of the day. It will naturally be jarring for them to suddenly change their home routine.
It’s especially important for you to be sensitive to both the children’s and parent’s health concerns during this time. Parents may be more concerned about safety guidelines like face masks and hand sanitizers around the classroom. Make sure you have a strong classroom cleaning plan to help keep the environment as healthy and virus-free as possible. Your students’ physical well-being is just as important as their emotional well-being.
New experiences can be scary—separation anxiety is a common issue almost every teacher will deal with during their career. It’s a stressful time for the child and can be an emotional process for you. But the work you are doing is essential to their emotional growth and development.