I recently had a old high school friend contact me asking me for ideas settling her 2 yrs. old into a long day care centre. I was glad to help.
It can be so upsetting for children and parents transitioning into care and at times stressful for educators. I have a few ideas that can allow this to be a positive experience with children settling faster and becoming confident in saying goodbye. Here are some of Mrs B’s Tips…….
Tips for Parents…
It is so hard for mums to leave the most precious person in their life esp with people that don’t really know yet. I used to keep a box of tissues in the office for mums first day.
For a young child to settle well into a centre I recommend two consecutive days a week. It’s gives them time to practise being in care and confidence to explore their environment.
It can take up to 6 plus weeks for a child to settle into care.
Visit the centre as much as possible at least 3 to 4 times before your child starts care .This gives children a chance to make sure they know the faces and names of their educators, your child can potter around the area and with you they will be more confident to explore.
While your there I would be chatting to the educators as much as possible asking them what they are doing in the program. Help out during morning tea, chat to the other children, asking the educators if there is anything you bring in e.g recyclable items for craft. Let them get to know you and your family. Ask if you can bring in a family photo or if you have a pet bring in to visit.
Let the educators know if there is something your child loves to do. Basically creating a strong connection with your family and the centre. Have a giggle with the Educators too. Be chatty and enjoy your time there.
Ask if you can take photos of the educators so you can look and talk about them at home. At home talk about the centre and the educators with your little one.
Now this is the hard bit …..
Talk a lot leading up to the first day about when you go to care you will go and will pick them up after e.g lunch. 1/2 day is a good start.
Then on your first official day stay 20 mins, then as hard as it will be and even with your whole body telling you to stay and love them, you have to tell your child you are going and when you will be back. Then walk out the room. I know – how hard is that!!!! Even when they are crying and wanting you. If you keep going back to comfort your child they will end up extremely upset, this will makes it worse. Ask the director is you can call in 15 minutes to see how your child is going and then again perhaps at morning tea time.
It’s going to be hard, but once settled the learning that occurs is brilliant.
Tips for Educators
When a new child is transitioning into care it can be a stressful time, but with strategies in place this can be an easier process for all involved. Here are some ideas:
Encourage families to come into your room as much as possible before starting – the more the better esp. at different times of the day. I know this can feel like your day may be interrupted but this is so important !! Take this time to get to know the family, take photos of the child participating esp. with educators. Print these photos and give them to the parent (so they can discuss the time together at home).
Be patient with new families – there is so much for them to learn and both child and parent may be feeling quiet anxious.
Have photos of yourself and other educators for the child to take home and show other people in their family. Let them know something about you e.g I had photos of my family and would talk to the children about each person in the picture. I also had photos of my puppies dogs and told them the story about how they received their nicknames. Create a connection. We ask for so much information from the families, I believe its only fair they know about you.
Have something for the child to take home e.g.photos, magnet with centres phone number, pictures, paintings etc Let them know how much you are looking forward to seeing them again.
Be honest to parents, esp. how hard it maybe for them on their child’s first day. Let the parent know how important it is for them to say goodbye and tell the child when they will be back. Ensure the parents know that if the child becomes upset that its ok and you are there to comfort them. Be assertive with parents, take control of the situation and if you can see the child becoming upset and the parent not confident to leave its up to you to support them through this.
Have lots of tissue’s in the Foyer
Call them after a short amount of time to let them know how their child is going.
If you can try to take photos of the child interacting and involved in the program – email the photos to the parents then and there. When the parents leaves the centre for the first time their child is usually upset – how reassuring would it be for the parent to a visual of their child settled. Then they could go about their day without the anxiety of not knowing.
As a team discuss orientation and transitions of children at staff meetings, think about starting up a facebook page for the centre, online newsletters or newsletters emailed to parents. Make it easy for parents to know about you and your care.
When directing I would email parents the beautiful photos of their children playing in the centre. This was for all families in the centre. I would aim for emailing 4 families each day. The positive feedback and parent involvement increased and parents loved sharing their photos to work colleges, family, friends and even sent the photos onto grandparents overseas etc. When the parents collected their children they where excited to show then the photos they received and would have a topic to discuss with their child.
Ok I think your getting what I love Sharing photos, photos and more photos.
I hope this helps, I would love to know what strategies you have.