Written by Donna McClintock, COO with Children’s Choice Learning Centers, Inc.
You may have heard this quote: “The world hates change, but it is the only thing that has brought progress.” Why do we resist what we know is good for us and our children? Well, I don’t have a simple answer, but I do have some reassuring thoughts for parents regarding transitioning your child from one classroom, school, or comfortable situation into a new season.
It is our job, our honor, and our privilege to be an advocate for our child. What does this mean? Does this mean that we should ensure that our child has no discomfort or that we go before him and remove all encounters that will bring challenge? I think not. It is our job to know the people in his world and to make sure we have vetted the environment so that he is safe. Then we must equip him with the skills that he needs to navigate through new experiences as he leaves the comfort of a loving caregiver and learns to build a trusting relationship with his next caregiver. Change brings progress, and he must learn that he can cope with change.
Here are ten tips for parents:
1. 1. The first three years of life should have the least amount of change. Continuity of care is critical. Certainly in the first year of life, avoid all change, if possible, and do not transition your child to a different classroom. Her bond with her caregiver is one way that she learns to trust.
2. 2. Research validates that remaining with the same peer group is also crucial to forming strong, long-term relationships. It is important for both his primary caregiver and peer group to remain consistent, if possible.
3. 3. When it is time to transition to another caregiver, the plan should be collaborative. Some children take longer to acclimate to change; and the current caregiver, the new caregiver, and the parents need to work on the child’s individual transition plan together. As a parent, you should be fully informed and feel a part of the plan. Speak up if you feel uninvolved.
4. 4. Monitor your child’s behavior during the transition time. A child often shows signs of distress that may seem unrelated to the change. For example, she may regress to bed-wetting or baby talk or she may exhibit fears that have not existed in the past. These behaviors do not necessarily mean that the transition isn’t the right transition. They may indicate that your child doesn’t know how to express her anxiety. One way to help you understand the issues is to spend some time at the center observing her.
5. 5. If your child is in preschool, encourage role playing. Often children will disclose their anxieties or the real issues when role playing. Otherwise, just work hard to keep your child communicating with you in any way that opens him up to you.
6. 6. Do everything you can to keep the lines of communication open between the previous caregiver and the new caregiver. Often the caregivers can talk and figure out the origins of your child’s anxiety.
7. 7. Teaching your child to cope with change is a skill that is critical in life, but every day she is upset is one day too many. If she has not adjusted to the transition after two weeks and you have observed in the classroom, worked with all caregivers involved, and cannot find a cause, you might want to try a different classroom or caregiver. There are occasions when personalities just do not connect.
8. 8. Never second guess your gut instinct. If your child is unhappy and you do not feel at peace, make a change.
9. 9. Your child is too important to let things slide so talk, talk, talk! So often, what is left unsaid can remedy a problem. Keep talking about what you feel would work. If you like 90% of what goes on, keep talking to your child’s caregiver. Most early childhood educators want to do a great job and are in this field because they have amazing hearts. They might be doing something that isn’t working simply because they do not know that something else might work better.
10. 10. Show a positive attitude to your child and don’t let your own fear of change affect her. Comfort is tough to give up; but if you truly want her to excel, she must move on to bigger and better things. Let her excel, let her GROW!