Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Know Yourself and Your Child(ren)

We may not all be the uber-worry free and well-maintained "mom" pictured with her child on the beach in the Club Med brochures, but we sure want to enjoy a great beach vacation with our whole family, and the child care model provided by Club Med at Punta Cana (as well as Ixtapa and Sandpiper) even allows moms of very small children to have a break, too! Many resorts have kids camps, but few have organized, systematic care for babies and toddlers.

Think carefully about you and your children, and your "goals" and expectations for vacation before you depart on this trip. Club Med Punta Cana provides a very good care setting for children, and the staff work very hard to care for and engage children of all ages. That said, parents should have realistic expectations - it would great if everyone adjust automatically and have a great time and parents could "be off duty" for a while themselves, but some kids either don't want to be left by parents (baby, toddler) or maybe just don't want to hang out with a group (older children).

__Are you personally comfortable leaving your baby in group care or with a babysitter?
__Are you personally comfortable having your toddler in group care?
__Are you comfortable having your older children enroll in day camp?

__Is your baby or toddler accustomed to being away from you at a stretch of time?
__Is your baby or toddler already in daycare at home?
__Does your child adjust well to new situations? (kids all ages)
__Does your child enjoy meeting new kids his/her age and trying new things?

My baby experience: Babysitter
When we first went in 2008, I was hopeful to enroll our 15-mo old in the Baby Club. However, Baby Club slots are quite limited, and our trip planning a bit last minute, so we did not have a slot. When we arrived, I saw that many in this age group seemed unhappy in spite of the many attentions of the GOs, and my husband and I realized that our child, who was not yet in daycare at home, probably would not have done well herself. In the end, we retained a resort babysitter for afternoons when she took naps and to stroll her around the grounds, feed her, and visit the Baby Club play area when she woke up. We arranged to have the same (Spanish-only speaking) sitter each day, and this worked very well - we had time to be "off duty", and our child could rest and have individual attention.

My toddler experience: Petit Club
This year, we enrolled our toddler in the Petit Club. At two, she is already in daycare in the US, and had already gone through the initial week-long "shock" transition (read: crying every day) of being left at daycare in the US. Once she got over it, she quickly warmed to her new teachers, classmates, and new activities. Before we left home and on the plane, we told her that she would go to school at the beach, and that she would have new teachers on our vacation. Generally, our child seems to be pretty out-going and jumps right into things, which turned out to be a good thing.

On Day One of drop-off at the Petit Club, many 2-3 year olds were crying or asking mom/dad not to go. The GOs told us that they could tell which little ones are already in daycare, as these kids went about their business checking out the toys and drawing activity; even I could see these kids already knew the drop-off routine, having "hardened" to it at home. Other children were very apprehensive about being left by their parents, and if this was their first time in a group care setting, I can certainly understand this. Some parents did not come back the next day, while other parents tried to leave their children again and hoped that they would adjust; in the end, I think this latter part depends on the child.

Drop-off transition is awful for parents trying to go to work, never mind on vacation, so I can understand why some parents chose not to try drop-off again. The GOs know what to expect and are very caring, but it doesn't really matter if you're in Punta Cana or Hometown, USA - transitioning toddlers will still cry!

Know yourself, and know your child. The child care/kid camp programming is really wonderful, but in spite of this your toddler, for example, may still not want to stay by him/herself, particularly if unaccustomed to being left with others. Don't be disappointed if your child/ren does not participate in the camps when you had thought they would. Be flexible to the situation and maintain an open mind - our daughter attended the Petit Club every day along with others, and she and her classmates seemed VERY happy (you can see the children on the grounds during the day), but if she had not enjoyed the experience, we were prepared to care for her exclusively ourselves and perhaps to have an occasional babysitter.

1 comment:

  1. Such great advice. We went back to Punta Cana for the second year in May and absoutely loved it.

    Last year my then 1 yo daughter did great in the baby club. This year she was moved into Petit Club and didn't do as well. But it was her temperment, certaintly not a reflection on the caring and capable staff there.