Choosing the right child care program for your family is one of the toughest choices many parents have to make these days. There are many good reasons parents choose their child care providers. But there are many bad reasons as well. Choosing the wrong type of child care provider, or selecting one strictly based on convenience or cost can backfire, creating lots of stress for the family and an unhappy child. Here are several pitfalls to avoid when looking for the right child care option for your family.
1. Choosing Care Based Only on Location
Choosing a child care provider that is close to home or work, would be extremely convenient, and it’s worth considering. However you also need to determine whether this child care center meets your family’s expectations in all areas important to you. You are setting yourself up for an unhappy experience if you don’t also consider the center’s education focus, environment, hours, safety and other criteria that may be important to you. If all of that is in order, then a convenient location is icing on the cake!
2. Relatives of Friends Offer to Watch Your Child
Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if family life was like it was on “The Walton’s” TV show? Way back when, family could be counted on for anything, and were often the most trusted people to care for our children. While family members in generations past have lovingly and carefully watched kids so parents could work, this isn’t always the case anymore. Many times friends and family do not have open schedules to accommodate your work schedules, which can lead to lots of schedule juggling and patchwork daycare routines. And even if they do, parents need to consider whether their child is thriving in this type of environment or is missing out on enrichment, stimulation, and early education opportunities. Just because a person is “family” doesn’t mean they are truly qualified to safely care for a child, especially on a recurring basis.
3. Picking Child Care Because it’s a Bargain
With the rising cost of EVERYTHING these days, cheap child care is hard to ignore. Families on a tight budget may be easily tempted to use a particular child care provider because they are cheap. But this can be one of the most dangerous child care pitfalls if you are not careful! While it is possible to find affordable child care arrangements, you must be a diligent parent. Check for safety issues, licensing issues, background checks, experience, and provider education and training. Many of these important areas are lacking in cheap child care. Be sure to do some checking and make sure the price isn’t the only reason you choose your child care provider.
4. Limiting Your Options to One Type of Care
There are many different types of child care options for the working parent. A few that come to mind are licensed home daycare providers, child care centers, relative care, and private nannies or au-pairs. Parents should carefully research their options, and not be close minded when it comes to making their child care choice. Sometimes, parents set out preferring one type based on their own childhood experiences, or because of a friend’s opinion. Each type of care has pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages, and while one option may work great for your friend another may work better for your family. Parents should weigh out the facts regarding each type of care option and their scheduling needs, and then carefully consider each option before making their choice.
5. Choosing a Center with Loose Rules
Parents may be tempted to choose a particular provider because she seems so easy going and “go-with-the-flow.” While some flexibility can be nice, parents should really be careful when choosing this type of provider. Rules and regulations are important. Centers without clearly established guidelines for everything from operating hours to illness policies to payment arrangements, are likely to have other organizational problems as well. You should ask for a written copy of the center’s policies, and make sure you are prepared to follow them. Be wary of a center that can’t supply this to you. In home daycares might be slightly less formal, but a good one should still have the basics like a set schedule, safety policies and a safe environment. If a daycare home or center doesn’t have clear rules and organization, it’s not likely to be the right place for you. Keep looking.
6. Rushing into a Decision
Parents often feel rushed into choosing child care for their child due to pressures from work and family schedules. However, parents should be reminded to give careful consideration to how this choice will impact the development of their child. Deciding who will be caring for your kid, whether its occasional or every day, part time or full time, is a huge decision. Parents should be sure they have researched their options, and have made an informed decision to ensure the best long term satisfaction regarding their child care choice.
7. Using a Caregiver Strictly Because of a Neighbor or Friend
Every family is different, and just because your best friend uses a particular daycare, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for your family. Of course, it is important to consider recommendations and feedback from trusted friends and family members, but this should only be a starting point for considering your options. Also keep in mind that each kid may view the place differently or respond differently to the environment or caregivers. Be in tune with your child, and be sure you are considering his/her needs in all child care decisions.