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Most child and adolescent psychiatrists recognize that the ideal environment for raising a small child is in the home with parents and family. Intimate daily direct parental care of infants for the first several months of life is particularly important. Since the ideal environment often is not available, the role of day care, especially in the first few years of the child’s life, needs to be considered. Some experts recommend a minimum of six or more months leave for parents. All agree that when day care is used, the quantity and quality of the day care are significant in the child’s development.
Before choosing a day care environment, parents should be familiar with the state licensure regulations for child care. They should also check references and observe the caregivers with the child.
Parents sometimes take their young child to the home of a person who is caring for one or more other children. Infants and children under two and one half years of age need:
Parents should seek a caregiver who is warm, caring, self-confident, attentive and responsive to the children. The caregiver should be able to encourage social skills and positive behavior, and set limits on negative ones. Parents should be sensitive to the caregiver’s capacity to relate to children of different ages. Some individuals can work well only with children at a specific stage of development.
It is wise for parents to find out how long the individual plans to work in this day care job. High turnover of individuals, several turnovers, or any turnover at critical points of development, can distress the child. If parents think or feel the day care they have chosen is unsatisfactory, they should change caregivers. All parents have the right to drop in during the day and make an unannounced visit.
Many children, particularly after the age of three, benefit from good, group day care, where they can have fun and learn how to interact with others. Child and adolescent psychiatrists suggest that parents seek day care services with:
Though parents may worry about how the child will do, they should show pleasure in helping their child succeed. If the child shows unusual or persistent terror about leaving home, parents should discuss it with their pediatrician.
This information made available by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, (AACAP), 3615 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20016-3007, 202-966-7300, http//www.aacap.org