Orientations: Making them Count
For most children, entry into a Young Academics Early Learning Centre will be the first experience of being separated from their parents. Most children will experience some anxiety leaving their parents for the first time and it will be important that both parents and staff work together to build the special relationship necessary for successful transition and adjustment for all parties involved. Even if a child has been in care before, she/he will still need to time to adjust to the new staff and environment.
Parents are encouraged to help their child’s transition by taking the child to visit the Centre a few times prior to leaving them. These visits may only be for up to a half hour or hour at a time and at different periods of the day. Both parents and children receive an overall picture of the Centre’s routine and have plenty of opportunity to ask questions and “absorb” the Centre environment together.
We recognize that sometimes parents do not have time for a period of orientation due to health, work commitments or other circumstances, but we will work together with families to ensure positive alternative strategies are put into place. Whilst we aim for both parents and children to slowly and gently get to know the centre, we realize that flexibility within the orientation period is essential.
During Orientation parents can
• Become familiar with the educators who will care for their child.
• Understand the program as it is delivered.
• Meet some of the other parents and children.
• Understand the policies and procedures that the centre has in place.
Orientation will help the child to
• Develop a trusting relationship with a consistent educator at the centre.
• Become familiar with the routine of the day
• the child is able to explore the new environment.
• The child gets to meet potential new friends
During Orientation educators will
• Demonstrate a supportive and accepting attitude towards families.
• Recognise that having a child commence childcare can be a major milestone for families and that it can be an anxious time for them.
• Be accepting and accommodating toward different cultural backgrounds, family lifestyles and child rearing practices
• Acknowledge that some families will need more support than others.
• The main educator interacts with the child as much as possible during orientation to develop, confidence and trust with the child.
During the orientation process parents, centre manager and educators’ will observe the child and work together to ensure the time period is appropriate for the child.
Helping children with separation anxiety
It is actually quite common for children to show some signs of discomfort when they first start in a new centre. From about six months old, most children begin to show distress when they are away from their parents or carers, as they don’t yet have a separate sense of self, so can feel a part of them is missing. While this can be worrying for parents and carers, it is normal for children to find the transition to childcare upsetting, and important to remember the distress is often short-lived.
Behaviour to Look Out For
Not every child will find being away from their parents or carers upsetting, and not every child will respond in the same way. When children are upset, they can express this in a number of different ways:
• Some may be visibly upset, and will cry or call out.
• Some may have physical symptoms such as headaches, nausea or tummy aches.
• Some may appear nervous, restless, clingy, or quiet and withdrawn.
What parents can do
- Prepare your child by visiting the service and talking to them about what will happen, the routine of the day, who their educators may be
- Build trust with your child, be sure to say good bye and not sneak away
- Don’t ignore your child distress- Reassure them you will be back, respond and comfort them
- Build a regular routine on drop off and pick up so your child begins to be familiar with when you may return
- Allow your child to take a family photo to hold or look at through the day
- Read Kinderloop each evening with your child to talk about the fun things they participated in and what they can look forward to doing when they return
What educators will do
- Respond and comfort them. The important thing is to find a balance between supporting the child and giving them the chance to experience managing how they feel
- Talk to the child about what will happen during the day, what’s coming next, what time mum or dad might come back
- Keep the child busy; play a game, take them to an activity and get them involved, read a book with them
- Ensure that the room is a nice, cosy, comfortable place for children
- Encourage the child to talk to them about their family. Who is in their family? Where are they today?
And remember it’s not just the children who can find starting child care upsetting, for many parents too this is the first time someone outside the family is being trusted to care for your child. Recognise your own feelings and have strategies in place to deal with how you are feeling. Maybe an extra coffee on the way to work or calling a friend to have a cry?
Parents are welcome to contact the service at any time through the day to check on your child and discuss their day.