Starting at Little Village? Your child will probably need a little while to get used to the new routine – and you might too! You can take the stress out of things by planning ahead, preparing your child and settling your child in over a few weeks.
Arrange orientation visits with your child and spend time talking to the Educators to begin building connections and relationships. You will both need time to adjust to the new dynamics, the new sounds noises, the new smells, the new faces and the new voices. It can sometimes be overwhelming at first, so gently encouraging your child to explore at their own pace with you alongside is the best way to start.
Find out about our practices and routines and how that will work for your child and his/her individual needs. Maintaining consistent routines between home and care will ensure your child settles well and quickly. Share your child’s interests, likes, dislikes, cues & signals, special words, comforts etc. The more information Educators have about your child, the better they will be able to meet their needs.
Learn the name of your child’s Educators, perhaps put their photos on your fridge at home so you can talk about them. Reassure your child that they are new friends and are very excited about your child coming to be part of the group. Your child is more likely to feel safe and secure in the new child care setting if she sees that you have a good relationship with the people there. If your child can see you trust the Educators, he/she is more likely to trust them too. If possible, ask you service to connect you with some of the families that will be in your child’s group. If you have the time and ability, set up a play date so children can get to know each other outside the new care environment.
Preparing your Child
Reading or telling stories can be a safe way for your child to explore strong emotions and understand new events. You could try picture books about starting child care or making new friends. Or you could make up stories to share with your child about the experience. It’s good to include all the feelings and experiences your child might go through – for example, happiness, fun, friendship, sadness, anxiety, apprehension and tiredness. Talk about the interesting games and activities that they will be able to enjoy at Little Village and how much fun it will be.
Preparing your child ahead of time can also involve exciting things like buying a new back pack or drink bottle. Pack the bag together allowing your child to choose which spare clothes they want to have in their bag. Sometimes a transitional object, like a family photo, a favourite book or comfort item will assist children as they settle into care. They can be encouraged to share their item with their new friends or hold onto their photo throughout the day to bring them comfort. At Little Village, help your child put their belongings in their own locker, greet the Educators warmly and spend a little time in a shared activity before saying a positive goodbye - this daily ritual builds confidence and a sense of belonging in their new environment for your child.
Create Routines or Rituals
Creating routines and rituals can help adults and children cope with change. At Little Village, we have a few rituals that have evolved quite naturally, such as waving goodbye from the ‘goodbye rock’, grabbing a kiss over the fence, standing on the bridge and showing us which car is mum/dad’s - all of these help to give the children a sense of security and ownership of what is happening.
Some children will take longer than others to settle into care, there is no set time or text book answer for this. Patience and perseverance is the key. Give yourself time to be flexible. If you are returning to work, perhaps start your child a week or two earlier. This way if your child needs to have a shorter day, you have the ability, without work pressure, to facilitate this. If children are distressed, we would rather call mum or dad and suggest an early pick up, and extend their day longer next time. Trust that our Educators will invest time and energy in getting to know your child and concentrate on building secure relationships.
It is important to realise that every child is an individual and what works for settling one child will differ for another. There are a range of emotions that children may display when separating from their families and caregivers. Open and regular communication with your child’s educators will ensure that your child’s transition into child care is positive, supported and successful.
Always try to be positive, even if your child is reluctant or resistant. It is very normal for children to feel a little apprehensive. Let your child know you understand how they feel and reassure them that you will come back to get them after they have had fun playing.
Remind your child “It’s okay to be afraid. But, you’ll feel better each day that you’re there. Lots of kids feel just like you do.” It can be tempting to try to brush off a child’s fear, instead, acknowledge your child’s emotions while offering reassurance. Try not to let your own anxiety about the situation show too much; or influence your actions. Children are very perceptive, if you are stressed and anxious, they will be too.
At Little Village, our Educators will be sensitive and supportive of both you and your child and allow you as much time and space as you need to feel comfortable and confident. Ask whatever questions you need to, never feel like you are being a bother. If you would like to discuss anything about starting your child in care, please feel free to chat with our Centre Director.