Starting at childcare or kindergarten can be a challenging transition time for families. Children feel separation anxiety, parents worry that their child won’t be cared for in the same way the parents do, and yet others might think that their children cannot flourish without them .
In recent times, added pressures on parents make this transition seems more and more difficult. Finding work-life balance with both parents working, spending quality together as a couple, and managing financial strains are just some examples of these extra burdens.
As parents, we’d often like to control our children’s experiences and the environment they move in. However, as an educational psychologist told an eager and loving group of parents with young children during a recent parent seminar, “…. if parents are going to continue trying to be completely responsible for their child’s happiness, then neither they nor their child will be happy!”
In the best interests of your child, below are some helpful tips to assist with the family’s transition to childcare or kindergarten:
- Prepare for the orientation sessions in a positive manner.
Talk with your child about how exciting it will be going to childcare to play and make new friends. If the child is old enough, pack their childcare backpack together as a fun activity, talking through what is being packed and why.
- Feel confident in the decision you’ve made for your child to attend childcare and the service you have chosen.
Positivity which feeds off parents who are adjusting well to the transition works best and enhances successful collaboration with the service and educators.
- Build friendly and professional relationships with the childcare team.
Managing a respectful two-way relationship will be of most benefit for your child.
- Be guided by the educators.
Educators are expertly trained in the area of education, learning and development with young children. They are always very open to working collaboratively with the families as it helps the children to feel a sense of belonging, safety and security.
- Communicate when needed with the team.
Until the family has adjusted well into the service, feel confident about calling the service for an update at any time you may be feeling uneasy. Childcare centres and kindergartens are in the business of communicating with complete transparency. There are only gains to be made by being honest, authentic and kind.
- Drop your child off with confidence in a calm, consistent and loving manner.
Some children arrive and move away from their parent swiftly to engage with playing, an educator or new friends whilst others like for their parent to stay for a short time to help ease into the start of the day. When it is time for the parent to say goodbye and leave the service, make contact with an educator to tell them you are about to depart so they can help with comforting your child. Then tell your child to have a great day and that mum/dad will be back later in the day to collect them and that you look forward to hearing all about their day. Give a kiss and a hug, say good-bye and depart promptly regardless of your child’s response. The educator will no doubt have your child settled in a short time.
- Give some space to your child to move freely.
Hovering about the service and looking through the windows gaps to try to get a feel for what is happening will only add to your anxiety, will highlight to your child that you do not trust the educators and will not benefit your child’s day in any way.
- Get other family members to drop off and pick up.
If the struggles of drop off and pick up is too difficult for you, engage other family members to help you with it. This helps ease emotional anxiety which could in turn make your child feel upset.
- Take the time to read the literature the service provides.
Most services put a lot of effort in their newsletter, app learning stories, excursion and incursion notices, special celebration information, emails, routine updates, daily menu, weekly wraps, relevant policies and more. Reading these will help you feel connected to the service and feel a part of your child’s day.
It’s also important to remember, that like adults, children too can have occasional bad days! Children will go through stages of separation anxiety more strongly at different times and periods where they are testing emotional boundaries such as following a family holiday, the birth of a new sibling and any other changes to the family.
Even positive transitions are still a change for children that they need time to adjust to. Approaching these transitions with care and understanding will ensure that anxieties never become a greater issue than for a few minutes at drop off or pick up on the odd day.
For the most part, children that settle into childcare and kindergarten thrive. New friendships, life skills, positive peer group play, learning and development, self-care, play dates, party invitations and connected community relationships with other families will be in place before you know it!