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Childcare in the Covid Era - Sending Your Child Back to Daycare

I will choose to define Covid era as anything after 20 March 2020. Morning Glorie, daycare in South City 1, Gurgaon, had its doors open to children till about noon on the 20th, after which our doors were shut as a lockdown was announced. At that point, it was a blow to many parents, I concede. We had parents asking us when daycare was going to open, as they were struggling with childcare along with work - some parents did not have the luxury of being in industries with a work from home option. 

Yet, there was nothing we could do at that time - government guidelines and advisories were to keep daycares closed. I should know, I would tweet to the authorities over and and over till they reverted. 

Over time, different scenarios panned out.

1. Some parents lost their jobs.

2. Some managed at home with both partners taking turns between childcare and work from home, in addition to managing households.

3. Some families called grandparents over.

4. Some families moved back to their hometowns. For possibly the first time, daycare babies got to enjoy growing up in a joint family scenario, while people used to nuclear family setups learnt to adjust in a joint family.

In short, many families formed a new set of systems to cope with the loss of child care centers across the country, while some continued to wait for daycares to resume operations as soon as possible. 

Now we are in 2021, and guidelines finally started easing out. Daycares are finally in a position to take baby steps in doing what they are always meant to be doing - support working parents, especially working mothers, balance personal and professional commitments.

Morning Glorie, daycare in South City 1, Gurgaon, also decided to resume a soft start to daycare operations. Naturally, the times are still scary. There is the fear of a second Covid wave as cases are on the rise. Add to it the fact that for most daycares, the families who were sending their children to daycare till March 2020 have mostly either already made alternate arrangements, or the children have already grown up, or organizations have offered work from home for either the next few months, or the foreseeable future. 

Is There a Requirement for Daycares in 2021?

As we have been able to assess, the requirement for daycare has changed shape since the last time daycares were operational. Who are the parents who need daycare in March 2021?

1. Working mothers in industries where work from home is not feasible anymore. I am talking about mothers particularly because women had to bear the brunt of the pandemic. While both parents have been juggling work from home with childcare, mothers have extended their work from home as long as possible with support from their organizations. But the struggle is real, and time has now come to figure out alternate arrangements Though I will not discount the roles of fathers in homes where it has been the other way round.

2. Working mothers now going back to work after maternity break.

3. Parents of preschool aged children who did not opt for online classes in the last year and now need their children to engage constructively with other children of a similar age group. The requirement really is preschool, but till the time preschools open, daycares offering engagement plans will have to do.

How Has This Requirement Changed Shape?

Till the time vaccinations are completed, the fear of Covid will remain. This has led to a change in the shape of daycare requirement across the country.

1. Even in organizations where parents are required to report to office, for the most part, there is flexibility in working hours. At least for the foreseeable future, it is unlikely that parents will have a 9 to 7 daycare requirement. They are able to juggle their work schedules in a manner that daycare is needed for the minimum stretch, not maximum.

2. 5 day a week schedule in offices is not implemented fully yet. Parents have a more flexible requirement which the daycares need to cater to.

How Should Daycares Address this Need?

It is important for daycares and parents alike to remember that we are still in the Covid era. Till the time a significant proportion of the population is vaccinated, extreme caution must be exercised to ensure the safety of not only the children, but all the concerned parties - parents, teachers and support staff. 

This is a two-way mechanism. While daycares need to set up new systems in place to meet the daycare requirement and ensure all-round safety, the same is expected of parents as well. The protocols may seem stringent but need to be followed for all round safety. For your safety, as well as others', it is important to disclose travel history and keep the children at home if anyone in their vicinity has exhibited flu like symptoms. The same holds for the staff as well.

Things to Look Out For

1. How is the daycare maintaining hygiene?

With small children, it was always important to keep daycares spic and span to minimize the chance of infection, since small children, when stepping out of their homes, always feel a hit to their immune systems and tend to fall sick initially. Now, it is more important than ever. 

How is the daycare center keeping the space clean? How often are any of the surfaces being commonly accessed sanitized? What is the sanitization protocol, including hand wash for children and adults alike,  in place? 

2. What measures are being taken to minimize the risk of infection right at the entry point? 

Are there measures in place to ensure that any potential risk of infection is being addressed right at the gate, as far as humanly possible? Is temperature screening and symptom monitoring being done?

3. Is the daycare prepared to handle any medical emergencies? What is the medical protocol in place?

4. While it is important to maintain social distancing as far as possible, kids coming to daycare are very small and need to feel secure in their environment. How is the daycare handling that? How is the balance between social distancing, peer group interaction and age-specific stimuli being maintained?

5. Most important of all, what is your gut instinct? Now, more than ever, trust and comfort will play a very important factor in childcare. Trust your instincts to guide you in choosing the right facility for your child.

At Morning Glorie, while we attempt to navigate these waters, stringent SoPs are in place to ensure that returning to daycare is a safe ask, though it may inconvenience parents at times. Together, we have to see these times through as we inch our way back to normal.

Up Next - Active vs Passive Screen Time for Children


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