By Nathalie Lizé
Early Childhood Educator
The end of summer is near and for all of us, it will soon be a new year with a new group. No matter what preschool environnement you work in, back to school involves changes and adaptation. It is with excitement and enthusiasm that you will get to know each child and each parent. The little ones who find themselves in a new group or a new environment will have to learn to trust the adults in place. They will have to get to know each other, to find common affinities or simply to take their place in the group.This time of year requires patience, constancy, good observation skills and of course, benevolence. Therefore, it is important to go slow, so everyone, adults and children, experience this moment in gentleness and harmony. It’s a renewal for all, it requires time to adequately set up your relationships and your routine. Taking the time now will be the basis for a positive year to come.
Time for adaptation
If the new kid arrives directly from home, and has spent his entire life in his family environment, without attending daycare, the adaptation may stretch further over time. The importance of your emotional support will get its full significance. You will have to go from being a stranger to being a reassuring and meaningful adult. You will have to, slowly, using caring smiles, comforting words, hugs and kindness, help these little ones to become comfortable and happy to be around you every day. Just like the child who comes directly from home, the one who was in another environment will undoubtedly experience a period of adaptation as well. In either case, he has to deal with new friends, new place and unfamiliar adults which may cause worry and anxiety. The adaptation time varies greatly from one child to another. This period of change will be more or less easy according to the temperament and the personnel experience of each one and according to the quality of the support received.
It’s up to you
As several factors can influence this transition and the speed at which the adaptation period will be passed. It will be your responsibility to observe and pay attention to all the behaviors of these new little ones that you barely know or not know at all. It will be up to you to adapt your interventions. To find the most appropriate in order to secure this child who feels intensely the repercussions of the upheavals caused by the beginning of the year. Remember to keep an eye on your little ones who change groups but stay in your daycare. Some, more fragile, could have a difficult period. The place is familiar, but they may have lost their favorite friend or even a beloved educator. So, they can be destabilized just like those who join an unknown environment. It is important to give them all the attention and warmth possible and to remain available. Give every member of your group time and energy. Those for whom the change is easy going need your care as well. I suggest you use pictograms to illustrate your daily routine. All preschool ages appreciate visuel support. Put them in a place that is easily accessible and visible from anywhere in your class. Look at them several times a day to make routine more predictable and more familiar. You can find plenty of daily routine schedule cards on Pinterest and on the web.
Fortunately, it is possible that everything goes smoothly, with joy and without difficulties. If so, enjoy and smile!
Go step by step
Don’t be afraid that a child holds on too much or makes whims. Reassure him the best you can. This is how the trust will make its way and that he will get enough security to gradually take a distance. A lot of comforting to start the year brings confidence and emotional autonomy that will last over time. This is how the child will understand he can count on you and that you are available when needed. In order for him to become independent, go gradually. Be present with heart and soul when he arrives in the morning. Pay attention to your non-verbal attitudes so that the kid feels you are happy to see him. Welcome him with gentleness and kindness. Show that you understand he is sad, and finds it difficult. Put his feelings into words. A Preschool child needs help to regulate his emotions. Support him to help him calm down faster. The gradation in the interventions will bring you quick satisfying results. As your relationship grows stronger, use stratégies for this child to develop emotional autonomy. For example, he can observe what his friends are up to and decide to join them. You can make him choose between 2 or 3 activities and start the game with him to facilitate this detachment. A visual support to illustrate time is very helpful. You can ask him to play for 10 minutes and, when time is up, he can come back to you for 5 minutes. After a few days, you increase the playing time, but keep the 5 minutes with you, still using visual support. It seems like a long process, but you will see after a while, the child will feel safe and this technique won’t be necessary anymore.
The mouse timer application is perfect for this method. It’s funny, playful and most of all, free.
Here is the download link for the app. Store and Play store
Of course during the adaptation period crying can happen several times a day. Let the child comfort himself with some transitional object. At first, he will be more dependent on it, but when he gets to know his new environment, he will prefer to have fun with his hands free, and he will detach himself from it by himself. It’s the only thing that connects him to his parents, to his house, he needs it. If one day You don’t have enough energy, just keep him close to you. He will still feel reassured.
Getting to know each other
You won’t know your group after a week. Give yourself the time you need to know each other better. Have fun together, make jokes, do funny activities which will allow the little ones to become friends. Create a relaxed atmosphere. Be a reassuring, smiling adult who will inspire confidence. At the beginning of the year, provoke the occasions when the children will find common affinities.
If your age group allows it, discussions will help you understand what your protege’s interests are, where they come from, what their family is made of, etc. Taking the time to discover children’s personality and watching them evolve remains the best guide for your planning afterwards. You have a whole year for them to develop to their full potential, so there is no rush. Getting to know each other takes time, availability, investment and energy. Working in education is demanding but so rewarding.
Parents, your partners
In addition to putting your skills and your kindness to develop a bond with each child, you will have to work hand in hand with their parents. You will have to respect their values and their reality. They know their children and remain their first educators. Ask them questions about their child. Go get their expertise. Don’t forget they need to get to know you and to trust you. Try to be partners, allies. Everyone will benefit. A healthy and pleasant relationship with parents will serve you in good times but also in more delicate situations. If you want to know my way of facilitating the educator-parent relationship, you can consult my text on the subject from the link above.
Consult your colleagues, your educational support, your management and use your resources and competence if difficulties arise on the way. As I often say, take care of yourself and be self indulgent. It’s normal to make mistakes, use them to help you personally and professionally grow.
I wish you all a year filled with smiles, hugs, discoveries but above all, fun and laughs. Always trust yourself, after all, you are early childhood professionals
Talk to you soon