As parents we all assume that our child’s first day at daycare, preschool or childcare is all about them. It is a big moment in the life of any child. That first day of care outside the home represents growing maturity, independence and a new journey into the world. But have we really considered how our own parenting, care choices and family context predetermines and influences our child’s first day. It is our first day too and we juggle so many emotions, decisions and choices in navigating this path for ourselves and our family. How can we recognise the impact of our own role, needs and expectations in supporting our children to make a settled transition?
Let’s consider some tips for developing a positive orientation approach, recognising your child’s needs and supporting ourselves as parents. As a family we all begin this journey together, so thinking about it strictly from the perspective of the child, seems a little as if some of the passengers are not on board! Starting the journey needs good preparation, a clear pathway and a great sense of navigation, as we begin the journey to successful transitions and smooth separations for us all.
Each child and family are different
The pathway that each family takes to transition and settle their child is as unique and personal as the children themselves. No single rule is of best fit for all. Your child is their own person, as are you and for this reason, it is essential that an orientation process should be tailor made to fit you all. Remember that for different ages and developmental needs of children, this process will differ in the number of orientation visits you may require. Younger babies may need more time and preschool children can be settled quickly when they feel inspired, comfortable and trusting in their environment and educators. The more days that a child attends per week will speed up the settling in process.But there is no magic formula as to how this should work.
At Ganeinu, we recognise that this process should be designed around your family needs. Educators will support you to spend time with your child as they develop feelings of security, comfort and a willingness to explore, play and learn. Some children may settle quickly, whilst others just need more time. We welcome you to take this time and recognise your needs to share this experience with your child.
Your child’s reaction can vary
It is very normal and expected, that children can respond in many different ways. Some will embrace this new experience with joy and delight, whilst others need time to overcome initial separation concerns, anger or frustration at having been left. A tantrum can be the byproduct of this emotional upheaval, but we know these are short lived expressions of a child’s feelings and they do pass. For some children, this reaction can be in week two or three, as the routine of care is established. We can assure you that these are very much anticipated emotions from young children and our staff recognise their need for support, guidance, comfort and reassurance.
Tears and tantrums – not just for children.
For many parents your own emotional response is just as real. I remember all too well, a few mummy moments as my own children started their first day at preschool. If I am very honest, it was a little more like sobbing, dark glasses and just feeling anxious about this new beginning. It is very normal to feel this way. As an educator, I have seen countless parents leave on that first day with tears, emotion and a sense of worry. It simply means you are a parent who loves, cares and is emotionally connected to your child, and that is a great thing indeed. How lucky your children are!
It can be confusing, embarrassing and unexpected when this moment of anxiety hits you. We really do understand and in moments like these our educators will reassure you with a follow up phone call to let you know how your child has settled into the day.
For some parents, their own emotional reaction, makes it challenging to settle their child without passing on these feelings of nervousness and unease. Would it be best for a relative, the other parent or a grandparent to drop your child off for the first time? Would this make the transition a more positive experience for everyone? Better yet, if you are not ready to depart and wish to extend the transition period, have you considered utilising our Bubdesk option? Being near your child, having the chance to get some work done and still being onsite can be a positive start. This is just another way that Ganeinu offers a home away from home approach to caring for you and your child.
Understanding your own reactions and how this impacts your child
Children regulate their emotional response to the world based upon how we as adults help them interpret it. If we project a sense of comfort, ease and calm, our children take their social cues from this and respond accordingly. As a busy working mother, I know that this can be challenging as we juggle family commitments, employment and parenting.
Providing our children with stability and a positive outlook is the first step to a settled start. Take an interest in what is happening in the care environment, sit and read a book to your child, do a puzzle and play. How does this environment make you feel and why did you select it for your child? Support from the right child care provider can be invaluable in helping you as parents to feel confident, settled and ready, therefore helping your child to feel this also.
A positive orientation is key
Orientation is the process of short visits as you start to give your child a taste of what their care environment has to offer. At Ganeinu, we offer as many orientations as is necessary and prefer for a child to have visited the centre at least twice prior to starting. This is simply best practice for yourself and your child. We recognise that developing trusting relationships and partnership with educators takes time and we want to ensure time to ask questions, share in our day and offer your own insights into how we can best settle and support your child. You are their first and best teacher, so we take our cue from your parenting knowledge in understanding their routine, likes and preferences regarding sleep, play and routine care. We ask that you share your knowledge with us, as creating continuity between home and child care promotes your child’s feelings of security, trust and belonging.
The right childcare choice for your family
Have you asked yourself why you have selected the care arrangements you have in place? Does your service meet your needs beyond just ease of location, beyond shiny new furnishings and is it more than fancy wall decorations? Believe me, these aspects are so very unimportant to a child. To children a responsive, caring and genuinely intuitive educator who knows your child and cares about their day is so much more important. Relationships matter and meeting your child’s needs for a settled start is all about developing these relationships with educators. You will feel more settled, confident and at ease when you have a trusting child care environment that meets your child’s needs. Is your centre adapting and engaging your child and yourself, or do they settle your child within their structure and time frame? These are challenging questions, but vital ones if you are to find a family focused centre to support you during this new beginning.
The concept of baby steps really does seem very applicable to starting and separating from your child. Understand that over time children learn to relax, enjoy and regulate their emotional response to new experiences in small chunks. Small orientation steps may take the form of coming at some different times of the day. Visit for a meal time and help your child experience our family focused lunch times, as small groups of children and educators share nutritious meals together. Start small with short days of reduced hours away from you and build up to a full day over the week. Consistency, connections, continuity and communication are essential. Remember to always say good bye to your child, so they know you are going, but that you will return. Stay for a short time in the morning and settle them and then say a quick farewell. Reinforce the arrival in the afternoon by looking at their art work, talking about the day they had and expressing interest in their achievements as shared at Ganeinu via Kinderm8. They love to show you their day and this helps build trust and a positive outlook on their time at daycare. Read the newsfeed together each night and talk about what exciting adventures they have had.
Set realistic expectations
It is essential that you adopt a very realistic approach to settling and transitioning your child. You know them best and you can judge what they are ready for and when. Does your child have experience being left with other family members, grandparents or babysitters? Will this be the first time they are away from you, and will they need extra time to settle in? What has your child been accustomed to at home? How will this home routine impact upon their start in care and have you communicated this to educators to help them understand your child’s expectations and routines. What is happening at home recently? Do you have a new baby on the way, have you just moved or is this your first time back to work? All these factors will play a role in how your child adjusts, settles and orientates. Please help us to understand these aspects of your family life and so we can support you to have a settled start. Set yourself realistic expectations based upon this information and factor this into your orientation process. Will you need more time, will your child need more time, will grandparents be collecting your child and have they attended the centre to meet staff? Lots to think about here.
Most importantly take time to remember how important you are in this settling, orientation and transition phase for your child. Happy parents make happy children, and a little bit of self-care goes a long way in supporting the positive long-term outcomes of your child. We wish you and your child a very settled beginning on this journey together and hope that you take time to enjoy the ride! Do not forget these eight tips as a starting point in your journey. Happy travels.
1. Each child and family are different
2. Your child’s reaction can vary
3. Tears and tantrums – not just for children.
4. Understanding your own reactions and how this impacts your child
5. A positive orientation is key
6. The right childcare choice for your family
7. Small Steps
8. Set realistic expectations
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