It is that time of year when we slowly begin to think about easing out of the lighter, easier days of summer and returning to a more regular schedule and the faster pace that goes along with it.
Whether you have a little one returning to child care after an extended holiday, just starting a new program or beginning kindergarten, it can be a challenging transition for all involved. Below are some thoughts and tips from local early childhood educators Ray-Ann Miller (Kootenay Kids Early Care and Learning Centre) and Ketna Makwana (Golden Bear Child Care Centre) on how to handle the changing family schedules and new routines.
When children are starting back or new to a child care or pre-school program, settling into a new routine can be hard.
According to Ray-Ann, September is a starting point for many families and in her Infant/Toddler program, little ones leaving a parent for the first time, or having a hard time attaching to an educator will cry. She stresses that this is a normal reaction to leaving a parent and it can take 6-8 weeks for an infant or toddler to settle in. For older children at Golden Bear Child Care Centre, children experience different routines at home than at the daycare and are adjusting. Challenging behaviours can arise from being out of routine and from separation anxiety.
Both educators encourage several visits to the centre ahead of time, to get to know the environment, program and staff. This will help to ensure that it is a good fit for your child and your family. Ketna encourages parents to read the parent handbook, attend meetings with program directors and ask questions. Ray-Ann notes that when parents are confident that they have chosen the right program and know that the centre is the right setting, the child will feel this. Parents can then talk to their child and prepare them for what is coming, by describing what will happen. They can pre-set the stage for their child and give the child a reference point.
Once there, saying good bye can be made easier by having a consistent morning routine that starts at home.
Having a moment of connection in the morning, or even the evening before can go a long way when it is time to drop off children. A consistent drop off/pick up routine is very helpful. Parents can let their child know how they will say goodbye and then stick to the same way every day. When a child is upset, lingering can actually make things harder and they may have a hard time connecting to their educator. While it is hard, a parent staying clear and consistent about leaving will eventually lead to easier goodbyes. It is important to always let your child know when you are leaving and that you will be back to pick him/her up. At Golden Bear, Ketna is happy to call parents a short while after they have left to let them know how their child is doing.
Likewise, saving some time at the end of the day to pick your child up, also sets the tone for how he/she ends the day. Give time at the end of the day to check in with staff and to see what your child has been up to. Sometimes infants or toddlers will burst into tears upon seeing their parent again. This is normal for a child who has been away from their parent all day. They may not know how to leave. Ray-Ann encourages parents to just come in and let them be – hug and reassure them and give them time to transition back to home.
Keeping bedtime and morning routines at home, putting a few comfort items into your child’s backpack and talking to your child about the upcoming changes are all ways to set the tone for fall.
Each childcare centre has different ways of transitioning children into their programs. Be sure to touch base regularly with the early childhood educators at your child’s centre – they will have many ideas for you and can offer advice and support.