We can't believe summer is almost over! How the time flies. At Islington Village, we treat upcoming September like the beginning of the school year. Through these next few weeks we bid farewell to our oldest age group moving onto kindergarten, we greet new children and families and we transition children to their next classrooms.
The transition period can be a stressful one, obviously for children as they encounter new faces and new routines. For parents, it's the finale of a long process in finding great child care. Parents and families have the stress of researching daycares in their area, visiting those daycares, and dealing with waitlists. At Islington Village, we ensured to reduce some stress by never having charged families to be placed on a waitlist. It has luckily, now been mandated as of September 1 2016, that child care centres are no longer permitted to charge families any fee to be placed on the waitlist.
The beginning stages are usually the toughest, as both parents and child prepare for this transition, into daycare. At Islington Village we offer an opportunity for a meet and greet about a week before the child actually begins their full day in the program. These meet and greets typically last about 20 minutes, and are a great occasion for parents to meet caregivers, and have all of their questions and concerns answered. While the caregivers and families converse the children are able to engage and get familiar with the materials, toys as well as the other children in the group.
Then the transition begins, with the first day of daycare. The ways we ease the stress of transitioning children and families in child care, truly vary by family. Some strategies and approaches work for one particular child while for another child it could have the opposite affect. At Islington Village, caregivers greet each child by name, and go with them to find an interesting, engaging activity. As the child may be new to the centre, or to a classroom caregivers make suggestions if the child is unfamiliar with the materials and toys. If this child happens to have a special friend, we try to bring the two of them together in the book or block or puzzle corner so they can use their relationship to ease more comfortably into the day.
Children are welcome to bring in familiar objects from home, such as a toy or a picture of mom and dad, to help with the transition. Each classroom in Islington Village has a wonderfully created family tree. The child and caregiver can become engaged and have them stick the child's family photo onto the tree together, symbolically joining the classroom.
It's important to support the children through their stressful time. Some children need more transition time than others. Although the “short and sweet” rule works best for most children, caregivers are flexible and understanding in realizing some parents will have to stay longer than others. However, the best goodbyes are short and upbeat. Parents can lead the child to an activity, engage the child, then let the child know she’s leaving. It is not usually recommended that a parent slips away without saying goodbye. It's understandable that we want to limit the reaction and extended tears when the child realizes that the parent is about to leave for real. However, it's important to be honest with the children. If the parent sneaks out, the child ends up spending time looking for the parent. We encourage parents to say goodbye firmly and definitively – and to reassure the child they’ll be back.
A little tip, tell your child that you will be back at a certain time, for example, “See you after circle time”. This way, caregivers can take your cues, and throughout the day remind the child when parents will arrive, just as promised; a great way to initiate a bond between caregiver and child as well.
At the end of the day, that's all that we really want, is safe, secure, meaningful relationships between parents and caregivers, and especially caregivers and children.