A tag team approach with your child-care provider
Go ahead—ask parents and child-care providers about a task they dread. I am betting that potty training is high on the list.
Listen: it is not that bad. I have done it a bunch of times, and it is not the worst task.
Solo Moms rely on their child-care providers for many things. This is a special relationship that must be acknowledged.
Let’s break down the process.
Potty training is a priority when, and only when, the child is ready to start. Readiness to train usually occurs between about age two and three and a half. Girls may sometimes, although not always, show signs of being ready to potty train before boys. This is normal.
Signs of potty-training readiness include interest in the potty and some awareness of pee and poo. Awareness can be loosely defined as vague notions of something going on and then it’s over. But we all have to start somewhere, and the beginning seems as good a place to start as any.
If you are flying solo and have not potty trained before, consider sitting down with the expert, your child-care provider, to make use of his or her experience because, believe me, a child-care provider’s knowledge is vast.
- Don’t hurry potty training. Children train when they are ready. Trying too hard to get them to go to the potty before they are ready may make them anxious. It can also make you frustrated. Don’t go there. If you think that your child may be ready to train but you aren’t sure, talk to your child-care provider.
- When the time seems right, start offering potty time casually. As a Solo Mom, you may often be on your own. Therefore, developing a schedule for potty attempts should factor in your needs, too. Don’t make any needs so onerous that they would conflict with your work or other obligations. In addition, ask your child-care provider how often he or she recommends potty breaks and try to conform to that schedule (for example, after snack time and then again before naptime).
- Encourage your child to try sitting on different potties. Some children get attached to a certain type of potty. As a Solo Mom, you definitely don’t want your child to insist on using the potty at day care when he or she is home or vice versa—yikes! You can’t be losing your mind over your child’s insistence on using a specific potty when you are on your own. Start teaching your child to pick his or her battles. Underscore that where to go potty is not a battle worth fighting.
- Accidents are fine. Expect accidents. Every child has good days and bad days with potty training. Kids in kindergarten all wet their pants at least once when distracted or interested in something—that’s the truth; however, if accidents are becoming more frequent, consider talking to the child-care provider. Is there something going on at home that could be contributing to the frequency of accidents? Has some dynamic in your household shifted that may be affecting your child? Keep your child-care provider in the loop. He or she has navigated these pee waters with many kids and is well placed to make helpful suggestions.
- You should check in with your child-care provider about the provider’s rewards system. For example, if the provider has a sticker chart, you should get one. Consider conforming the chart at home to the one at school. When you pick up your child from the provider’s, ask how many stickers to add to the chart at home. Let the child choose the stickers and affix them to the chart.
- Avoid training underpants. As a Solo Mom, you have many things to do—often without assistance. You do not need to be washing any more laundry than you already are. It is tempting to try this apparently perfect baby step toward your child becoming fully potty trained. I discourage training underpants because the short-term pain of avoiding them is worth the long-term gain. Real underpants offer children a sense of accomplishment and pride. Training underpants can be confusing because they feel like diapers. Children cannot tell when they are wet, but with regular underpants, children know immediately. Something may start to fall into place when they recognize the feeling of being wet. That said, you are a Solo Mom, and you should never make the perfect an enemy of the good. If you are going on a long trip or you anticipate you cannot have an accident situation, the quick fix is fine. Feel free to put a pair of training underpants on over a pair of your child’s regular underpants. That way, the child knows he or she is wet, but you are spared a mess. You are also spared a wardrobe change.
- Know that you may need to wait quite awhile for your child to begin pooping in the potty. Many children are afraid to go poo in the potty. This is quite typical. Work with your child-care provider to establish routines that the two of you can standardize. For example, is your child comfortable reading a book while sitting on the potty?
People understand that Solo Moms face a herculean task in raising children, managing a household, and meeting professional and other obligations. Potty training is an area around which there is room for coordination. Seeking the expertise of your child-care provider is one way to lighten your load in an important way.
Do remember, though, to arrive at your child-care provider’s bearing gifts of many clothing changes. You are in a partnership with your child-care provider and your child. And keep your sense of humor about the whole process. Your child will not go to college in diapers—I swear.
Tara Shafer is the cofounder of Reconceiving Loss, an online resource center for families coping with pregnancy and infant loss. She is a contributing blogger to the Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and BabyCenter. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and on National Public Radio. You can follow her on Twitter at @reconceivinglos.
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