By Emma Thomas – Full-time mum to a 2 year old, part-time blogger and writer, with a background as a Kindy Teacher/Director
The beginning of a new year brings about a season of change for families. Your children may be starting childcare for the first time, increasing their days, moving rooms or centres. Just like adults, some children enjoy change and love a new challenge, a new environment and meeting new people! However other children will be slower to adjust and need more support through the process. Here are some thoughts to help you and your children have the best start to the year.
Prepare for Change
Our children handle transitions best if they are well prepared, we can talk to them about the changes that are happening, take them for visits to their new centre or room and let them meet their new educators.
Buy your child a new daycare bag and let them use it around the house, show them the things they will be taking each day and let them pack and unpack their bag.
Adjusting to the ‘new normal’ will take time. We often see children with the ‘3rd day blues’, when they realise that their new situation is permanent, however after a few weeks children will have developed relationships with their new educators and other children and will be feeling safe and secure.
It is so important to talk with all children, even our babies. Young children understand much more than they can communicate so it is never a waste of time to tell them what is going on. Keep your message clear and consistent, children need to hear the same thing a lot of times!
“You are starting at daycare today, I will drop you off and go to work. You will play with some toys, have some food and have a sleep. I will pick you up this afternoon.”
Children have difficulty understanding the concept of time so it’s good to give them something concrete to understand “I will come back after sleep time” or “I will come back when you’ve had your afternoon snack”. Try and keep days short at the beginning while your child is settling in.
Expect and Allow Feeling and Emotions
Christmas and New Years are over, things are getting back to normal but there are more changes to come! Children thrive in a predictable environment with a consistent routine. When this changes they will have extra feelings and emotions to process (and they won’t always express these are times which are convenient for you!).
We can support our children by allowing them time and space to process their feelings and emotions. Usually when we allow children to express themselves (even when we feel they are being ridiculous!) they will be able to move through the experience more quickly and return to a calm state. When our children are expressing big feelings and emotions our job is to hear and acknowledge them, but we should continue to be strong in our limits and decisions.
If your child is upset at drop off times or refusing to get ready for the day we can say. “I can hear that you are really upset about going back to daycare.” We don’t need to try and fix the problem or change the situation, most of the time our children just want to be heard.
One Change at a Time
Try not to make too many changes at once. The start of the year might seem like a good time to tackle toilet training, move your child from a cot to a big bed and increase their days at daycare, however our children cope better with one change at a time. Children thrive best in consistent and calm environments and we often see behaviour regression when children go through a big period of change.
Sometimes changes are unavoidable, such as moving house and starting at a new centre, at these times we need to give our children (and ourselves) a little extra grace and support as they find their feet again.
Dealing with Separation Anxiety
If you think your child will be upset you can try these strategies:
- Put a family photo in their bag that they can take out and look at or carry around
- Remember to pack their comfort toy, blankie or dummy
- Read books like ‘The Invisible String’ or ‘The Kissing Hand’
- Draw a love heart on your child’s hand and one on your hand, they can press the heart during the day to send you a message.
- Make sure the educators know what your child likes and is interested in, will they settle best going outside to play? Or would they like to help the educators with a special job?
- When it is time to go clearly say goodbye and then leave quickly. Use the same language everyday and keep it simple. “I’m going now, I will come back and get you this afternoon. Goodbye!”.
- Plan a fun activity to do together in the afternoon or on a day when they are home, make sure you are building your relationship so they feel safe and secure when you are apart.
Transition can be a tricky time but with a little support our children will be thriving and settled in no time!