Considerations for Returning to Care

May 21, 2021

Many families across Alaska are returning to the workplace and making plans for child care this summer and when school resumes in the Fall. Returning to child care may bring a mix of emotions after all the uncertainty experienced during COVID-19.

When you’re ready, Alaska’s child care programs are open and ready, taking the necessary precautions to keep your children happy and safe. Use these tips to feel confident about your decision to return to child care and make the transition easier.


Both you and your child may have some big feelings about returning to care after time away. Take time to listen to your child’s concerns and reassure your child that it’s okay to feel anxious. Consider what might help your child feel better. You may suggest your child draw a picture to give to the teacher on the first day. You could also set up a video call with your child’s teacher before you return, or read books together about returning to child care.

Keep your tone positive when talking about child care and try to stay upbeat when saying goodbye on the first day. Don’t forget to acknowledge your own feelings and give yourself space and time to work through emotions.

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Talk with your child about what to expect at child care now that some things may have changed. There may be new teachers or smaller groups of children. You may have to pack food instead of the facility providing meals. Your child’s classmates may not have returned. There may be new classroom routines and schedules.

You can count on your child’s teacher to help your child make a smooth transition back to their friends and classrooms. Talk through any concerns you may have about your child’s safety with the teacher and program director. Reference this list to ask about safety procedures such as:

  • Drop-off and pick-up procedures
  • Health screenings of staff, children, and visitors
  • Use of face coverings
  • Social distancing during meal times, nap times, in the classroom, and on the playground
  • Limiting group sizes and keeping the same group of children together each day
  • Hygiene procedures
  • Limiting shared toys and materials
  • Cleaning and sanitizing measures
  • COVID response plans
  • Communications with families
  • Behavioral, social and emotional support for children

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Think about what your new family routine will be like. Consider:

  • When does my child need to go to bed to get a full night’s rest?
  • When do I need to wake up my child to get ready on time?
  • What do I need to take with me on the way out?
  • What food do I need to provide?
  • What route will I take to get to child care?
  • When do I need to pick up my child?

Get back into a bedtime routine a week before you return to child care and practice your route to child care a few times. You can help your child learn the new routine by making a simple routine chart with your child using pictures. Refer to the chart or use another kind of signal, such as songs or alarms set on your phone, when it’s time to transition to the next step in your routine.

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Young children may not be able to fully explain or communicate their needs or their emotions. Instead, your child may express worry, anxiety, or confusion through behavior such as irritability or aggression. Collaborate with your child’s teacher and program director to support your child, and help them understand if your child has had experiences that may affect behavior, such as changes at home, food insecurity, illness, domestic violence, or trauma. Your child’s teacher or program director can also provide information about community resources to help support your family. Your child’s teacher is your partner in this and they are here to help.

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If you need additional help, check out the community resources on our COVID -19 Resource Center.