"A child's first week in child care is the hardest" is what the vast majority of child care providers say, and indeed it is, for we are talking about one of the most difficult transitions in childhood. Feeling abandoned by the parents is the emotion that most children in this process feel. During the first week starting daycare after being cared for at home with mom and dad, grandparents or a relative, this detachment can be a painful, frustrating emotional moment, or perhaps for others the opposite, total happiness. However, with the right support and some effective strategies, this experience can be made easier for everyone (the daycare, the child and the family). Let's talk about some key points to support children to adapt to their new place of care "daycare" in a subtle and harmonious way.
1. Open and friendly communication with parents
One of the first steps to facilitate the adaptation of a new child in the daycare is to establish an open and friendly communication with the parents. Listen to their concerns and expectations, share information about the routine and activities at the daycare, let them know how they work, what the team is like, what the food menu is, their beliefs about education. Have a conversation to make a connection. It's not just about the parent feeling comfortable in the daycare but you as the Educator also feeling comfortable with that new family in the program, ask questions to get to know each other. This collaboration can help create an environment of trust and reassurance for everyone.
2. Offer pre-visits
If possible, schedule pre-visits so that the child entering the daycare can get to know the environment and become familiar with the faces of their new friends, their new educators and the place. Allow at least a week before starting their big first day to stop by daycare, greet new friends for about 10 minutes. Also start a few hours of care so that she can get used to it until she gets to be there full time. This can help reduce the anxiety of the first time they arrive at daycare and give them a sense of familiarity and that mom or dad will be back.
3. Attachment and Comfort
It is normal that some children may feel anxious at first and will need reassurance is something we as child care providers need to keep in mind. Reassure them that you are there for them and offer hugs and words of support when needed. Allowing children to bring comfort objects, at least for an adjustment period of time such as a stuffed animal or blanket, can help them feel more secure and will reduce crying.
4. Assigning "Welcome Friends
Consider assigning an older child or a child who has already adjusted well as a "welcome friend" for the new child. This can provide a supportive and friendly relationship that eases the transition. The new child will feel that he/she has a special friend to count on and will not feel alone in those early days.
5. Communication with Parents
Maintain ongoing communication with parents about how their child's adjustment is progressing. Share positive anecdotes and any challenges that arise. Daily feedback allows parents to be involved and reassured that you are committed to helping them through this transition.
6. Patience and Empathy and adaptation of needs
The magic of it all is patience and empathy for the children's emotions. This first week will not be easy so if necessary be flexible in making changes to the daily routine. Remember that each child is unique and will adapt at his or her own pace. Some will take 1 week or 2 weeks and others may only take 1 day. Be willing to adjust your activities according to each child's individual needs.
As child care providers you have the influence to make a significant difference in this transitional process where for many children it is marked for life. With these key points, in addition to showing empathy and support, you can help make the transition a smooth and positive experience for children, families, and your child care programs.