If you are like most families, the past few months have been spent together. From early in the morning until bedtime, most children have become accustomed to being with their parents all day, every day. Whether those parents were working from home, helping siblings with homework or doing the laundry, they were hardly ever more than down the hall or up the stairs from their children.

Now that many parents are going back to work, children who have become accustomed to having their parents with them 24/7 now will have to become re-accustomed to going back to school or daycare. For some children, this will be a welcome change and an opportunity to reconnect with playmates. Others may have a more difficult time adjusting.

The adjustment will likely be more challenging for children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years old. This age group is more prone to separation anxiety and may struggle with the idea of leaving their parent’s side.

There are things you can do to make this transition easier on everyone. Child development experts suggest the following tips to reestablish what was once a seamless routine (and will be again):

  1. Be upfront. If your child is old enough to understand that they will be going back to school or daycare, let them know ahead of time. This is not something you want to spring on a child the night before.
  2. Get into a routine. As soon as possible, settle into a consistent bedtime routine, get up at a normal time, get dressed, eat breakfast and so on.
  3. Do some trial runs. If you can get someone to watch your child for an hour or so a few days now, do it. This will help children to remember that just because you are apart for a bit, you always come back together!
  4. Talk things out. Depending on the age of your children, ask them how they feel about going back to school or daycare. Don’t dismiss their worries but rather reassure them that everyone is feeling a bit unsettled but that it will get better.
  5. Expect a period of transition. Everyone (including you!) may be tired and stressed the first few weeks. As much as possible, try to cut everyone some slack as they adjust.
  6. Set apart some special time. Once you are back to work and your children are back in school or daycare, try to make some special one-on-one time with them in the evening or on weekends to let them know that while schedules change, your relationship will always remain strong.

Getting back into a regular routine of work, school, daycare and other activities is something we all will have to deal with at some point. However, it isn’t going to be like turning on a light switch. Be patient with your kids and be sure and cut yourself some slack, as well!

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