Experts agree that the most important factor, when settling your child into care, is the quality of the care provided. We believe that quality is influenced by how caring and patient staff are, the quality of communication between staff and parents, the ratios of adults to children and how well the centre’s values fit with those of your family.
The way children settle varies greatly and can be affected by:
- Their personality. Some children are shy and some are outgoing. Their natural temperament can affect how quickly they settle into centre life.
- The knowledge the centre staff have of the child’s home life and preferences, such as what they like to play with, how they like to be fed and how they like to be comforted.
- How regularly they attend care. Children who attend more days each week, or on consecutive days tend to settle more quickly than those whose attendance is irregular.
Some steps you can take to make the transition into care smoother for your child include:
- Visiting the centre together as many times as possible before your start date. Get to know the staff – especially your child’s primary caregiver, and let them get to know you and your child.
- Inform the staff of your child’s routines, likes and dislikes. If the staff at your centre don’t appear to value this information it might pay to rethink your choice of centre. High quality teachers will always value information such as this, that they can use to help integrate links between home life and centre life, and use to help the child feel secure.
- Bring along some home comforts – a cuddly toy, a special blanket or a favourite cup can all be reassuring for a child who is settling into care. Make sure they are clearly labelled with your child’s name.
- Gradually extend the time you spend away for your child in the care setting, whether you remain on-site or not.
- If your child isn’t attending care every day try to schedule consecutive days to lessen disruptions to their routines.
When you are leaving your child at the centre – whether it’s just to pop out of the room for a few minutes or for a full day at work – it’s important that you say goodbye in a reassuring manner and don’t scold them for being upset (if they are).
If your child is distracted when it’s time for you to leave, you might feel tempted to sneak out. This can make children more upset when they realise you’ve gone and they haven’t had a chance to say goodbye. It’s best to let your child know you’re going and say that you’ll be back later.
If you are cuddling or carrying the child, slowly hand them to a teacher who will cuddle them instead – there’s nothing more heart-breaking than watching a parent try to put an upset child on the ground when they are craving physical contact and reassurance. In a high quality centre a staff member will always be available to tend to an upset child whose parent is departing.
Tell your child how much fun they will have and that you have to go. Tell them when you are returning in a way they understand (e.g. after lunch or after nap time) and that you look forward to hearing about the things they are going to do. Be specific – they will remember what you say. Then give your child a brief hug or kiss and walk away. Staying to comfort your child usually just delays the inevitable as most children won’t stop crying until the parent is out of sight (but interestingly, usually ceases to be upset within a minute or two of the parent departing).
For example, you might say: “You are going to have a lovely day today with your friends, making things and doing puzzles. I’ll be back to pick you up after nap time. Do you think you could do a painting for me today? I can’t wait to see it when I come back after work, to pick you up!”
Over time you might establish a special routine with your child – for example a special saying, three kisses, or a high-5 and a blown kiss. A brief routine such as this can be comforting for the child and for the parent!
For some parent’s saying goodbye to their child is the hardest thing they do each day – especially if their child is upset. Try to remember that a child’s tears usually stop within a minute or two of the parent departing. Be assured by the fact that quality teachers are experienced in comforting upset children, and that the staff at Little Adventurers’ Early Learning Centre will let you know if they have any concerns about the way your child is settling into the centre.