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 new year brings new transitions for you, your child and your family. January is a common time for children to start daycare for the first time, change rooms or centres or increase their days. This can be a time of excitement for your family or sometimes a time of stress and challenge. Children, just like adults, respond differently to changes and new situations. Some children will settle quickly and enjoy the change to a new environment, but others will need support to settle. Starting the year well is simple if we consider the following.
Give your children time to Prepare
Prepare your children for whatever changes are coming. Take them to visit their new centre or room, ask for time to meet their new educators and talk to them about what will be happening.
Buy the new things they need and let them be involved, they will love picking out a new bag and practising pack and unpacking it.
It will take most children some time to adjust to their new situation, however children usually develop relationships quickly and after a few weeks will be comfortable with their new educators and centre.
Talk to your child
It can be easy to forget to communicate with our young children, particularly our babies. However babies and young children understand a lot more than we realise so explaining to them what is going on is really important. If we keep our language simple and repeat our message often we are giving our children the opportunity to be a part of what is going on.
“Today you are going to daycare, Miss Educator will look after you. There will be lots of things to play with, you will have some food and a sleep. I will pick you up when I finish work.”
Children can struggle with understanding time, you might want to explain that you will come when the other parents come or that you’ll be back after sleep time. If possible start your child out with short days and gradually increase to help them settle in.
January can be a time of big feelings for our little ones (and for us!). The excitement of Christmas and New Years is over, but things are still a bit unsettled with changes and new starts. Children tend to process their feelings and emotions loudly and in situations that are inconvenient to us adults (like in the supermarket!).
If we are prepared for tantrums and meltdowns they are easier to manage. We can accept and support our children through their feelings while remaining strong in our decisions and boundaries. Naming the emotions and letting our children know we hear them can be helpful and allow children to move through the feeling.
Keep it Simple
A new year and a new start can make us want to change everything at once! It might seem like a good idea to change your child’s room, complete toilet training and increase their daycare days – however if we can just slow down our children will be more successful. When we try and rush children through changes they can become stressed and we may see behaviour regressions.
Keeping things simple and making one change at a time allows our children the time and space they need to process and embrace each change. Sometimes big changes are unavoidable, like moving to a new area and starting at a new centre. During these times we should be prepared to extend extra support and kindness to our little ones.
Tips to Try
Here are some strategies you can use to deal with separation anxiety.
- Visit the centre and the new room your child will be starting in.
- Develop relationships with their new educators and make sure they will know what will comfort your child. Will they do best with a comfort toy and a cuddle or will they be better going outside to play?
- Pack a family photo that your child can look at when they miss you.
- Read books like ‘The Invisible String’ or ‘The Kissing Hand’
- When it’s time to go keep your goodbye simple and quick. Use the same language everyday. “It’s time to say goodbye, I will come and get you this afternoon. I love you!”
- 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 a plan of something special you will do together in the afternoon or on days when you are home together, building a secure relationship will allow your child to feel more settled when you are apart.
Transitions and times of change can be tricky for everyone, but if we put a little extra thought into them we can help support our children to have the best transition possible.