Making the transition from home into childcare can be quite a trying time for both parents and children. While some children take to their new environment with ease, others have a difficult time adjusting to their new surroundings. Being prepared to acknowledge separation anxiety is natural is the first step to strategising to minimise and ease it.
Separation anxiety is a natural reaction for young children between the ages of 8 months and four years when they become separated from their parents. For many children, the childcare environment is the first time that they will experience being separated from their parents. While some children embrace their new circumstances with enthusiasm, others find their new environment overwhelming.
Often the child can be excited about the prospect of attending preschool / childcare right up until the reality of the situation hits home and they realise that their parents will be leaving them in this new environment. It’s at this stage that panic often kicks in and can present as an often violent reaction involving screaming, clinging to parents and begging them not to leave, How the educator supports the child to settle into the day after such a reaction can present quite a challenge. Parents can help the educator with settling children into childcare by following these proven strategies.
The move into childcare can be quite challenging for the child and parents. These proven strategies can help to make it as smooth a transition as possible.
Words of reassurance and encouragement can go a long way towards settling a child’s misgivings about childcare. Try to point out the fun activities available in childcare such as building with blocks, colouring or painting. When your child arrives home after childcare, ask them about what they did and what the best part of their day was. It’s also a good idea to get your child to help with getting their pack together for the next day. This helps to reinforce the positive aspects of childcare as well as giving the child a feeling of control over the situation.
Most childcare centres provide orientation days for parents and children. Attending orientation helps the child to familiarise themselves with a new environment and will assist in easing some elements of uncertainty that they face when attending childcare/daycare for the very first time.
While attending orientation, take time to explain to the child that they will be coming here regularly in the future. Introduce them to the various educators and let them become acclimatised to the physical environment and begin to develop relationships with other children and educators.
While many children will not fully comprehend what orientation is about, the practical familiarization process will help to ease the uncertainty involved with the transition.
It is really important that your child is reassured and comforted while they make the transition to childcare. Particularly in those all-important early stages.
To assist in this regard it may help to allow the child to take a favourite possession with them. This could be a favourite soft toy, book or even a blanket that can help them to settle when they are upset or uncomfortable.
It can also help to inform the educator of your child’s regular routines and habits. If the educator is made aware that your child usually becomes unsettled at a particular time of day they can be prepared and know how to comfort them without aggravating the situation further.
To help make the transition easier, it may be worth spending some time at the childcare centre with your child as they become accustomed to their new surroundings. Your presence will help the child to settle into their new environment. While you’re there you can take the time to read your child a book or converse with educator. Your actions will help normalise the situation and help the child to realise that this is a safe environment.
You can make these visits shorter as your child becomes more comfortable in their surroundings.
While it is perfectly natural to want to delay saying goodbye to your child (particularly on that first day) you’re actually just delaying the inevitable and sending mixed signals to your child. Establishing a separation routine in childcare is vital in assisting your child’s transition.
The best thing to do is to explain that you will be leaving and will see them later on. It is important to be upfront with the child and not sneak away. Stick to any goodbye routines that you’ve established and then leave regardless of any doubts that you may have. Delaying your exit will only serve to cause your child to think that you can stay or that they might be able to leave when you do.
In short, the best course of action is to say goodbye and leave. Keep walking.