Well it is that time of year again. The time when we lose some children from our care and gain others. Working in a school nursery I have children transitioning to our reception class, children moving to other schools and new children due to start from other day care providers or leaving mum and dad for the first time.
Think about starting a new job. Learning what the place is like, the office politics, concerns about your new boss or whether you will make any friends, even simple questions that cause even the most grown up of us nerves; Do I need to ask permission before I go to the toilets? Where do I get lunch? What should I wear? Exciting but scary times huh? It is no wonder that transitioning into a new setting causes parents and children to feel uncertain and scared in an even more extreme way.
But lucky us. We have the power to ease these transitions and to help families and children as they move. Here we will first look at how we can help parents with the transition as this is a far more cut and dried process than the less easy topic of supporting the child, which we will deal with in our next blog posting.
A child starting in education or day care for the first time can be terrifying for parents. Many years later I still remember the gut wrenching fear and uncertainty I felt when my children started nursery at 7 months old then school at 4. After all these are tiny, little defenceless humans who we have had sole care of since they were born. No-one else could possibly know them as well or understand them as deeply as we, their parents, do. So the thought of them staring in a setting for the first time or moving to a brand new setting is terrifying. These parents are trusting the most precious thing in their life to you so the best way you can reassure them is to show them how seriously you take this responsibility. Here are some ways in which you could support them.
1. Initial Contact and Home Visits.
Your initial contact with parents will probably be initiated by them and often followed up by yourself in writing however you will both benefit greatly from speaking to each other in person as soon as possible. A warm, friendly, welcoming voice on the end of the phone can help set a parent's mind at ease and begin what will potentially be a years long relationship on a lovely level. A follow up home visit will also give them and their child the opportunity to meet you and ask questions in a setting in which the family feel comfortable. It also gives you thr unique opportunity of seeing how the child plays and acts in their own home.
Many of the concerns a parent feels when their child starts in school or day care can be eased by reassuring them that you have procedures, policies and routines in place. If you have one signpost them to your website, give them or direct them to copies of your policies and procedures, let them know practicalities like where the front door is, what your hours are, how and when their child will sit down to eat and the staff they will come into contact with, your health and safety measures, sickness policies and media policies. Be ready to answer questions or feel comfortable saying confidently 'I will look into that and get back to you later today/tomorrow' if you don't know the answer.
3. Setting Visits
The next step would be to invite the parents and child into your setting for a brief visit. Be sure to emphasise 'brief' and talk about what you will do during the visit. Otherwise you could end up with a family visiting for over half an hour and, although we do like to welcome families into our settings, half an hour spent with them is half an hour in which we aren't able to fully focus on the other children already in our care. If you just have one new starter to meet then this is best done during the normal working day so that the family can see the other children at play and the way the staff interact with them. Ensure all staff are aware of the visit and the child's name so that they can involve the child if appropriate during the visit. If you have several children due to start it may work better to have a parent's meeting one evening when the setting is set up as if for the start of a session or to have an induction morning where parents attend with their child for a couple of hours to play without the other children there.
4. Regular Updates
You should try to have regular updates for parents in the first couple of months while their child settles in. This could be photos, examples of their child's work, an opportunity for a parents evening or daily updates on how many times a child has been changed, fed and activities done (depending on the child's age). Also make sure that parents know they can phone you or talk to you any time during your working day if they have questions or concerns. You may also decide to use social media, online portfolios and text and email to keep your parents updated (but make sure you have one eye on safeguarding and a clear social media policy that parents are aware of and have access to before you do this).