Before choosing a centre think carefully about your own expectations of child care. Of all of the elements we have examined in this series, which are most important to you? What won’t you be prepared to compromise on? Centres you visit will each look different to each other, feel different, be organised or arranged differently, operate according to different philosophies of care and early education. It is most important that you find the centre which is the best fit for your family and your child.
Check your own feelings, especially guilt or anxiety, about your child attending care. Children are very perceptive of your emotions and seeing Mum or Dad anxious or upset about the situation can influence their process of settling into care. Plan and allow time for the process of orientating your child and your family into the centre so that you all feel comfortable and confident about this new and exciting transition.
It is also important to recognise that relationships are vital to you child’s experience in care. Child care educators deserve to feel valued and respected. Listen to their opinions and be considerate in giving feedback, especially when there is a problem. Working together to find a solution which is in everyone’s best interest can be more easily achieved when discussions are open, honest and respectful.
Be prepared to participate whenever you are able. Although it is not school and parents may not expect to participate, research findings indicate that family participation in early childhood programs maximises their effectiveness and ultimately benefits the children in care. It might be as simple as reading the newsletter or completing a survey giving your feedback, or giving your time to attend an event or assist with an excursion or activity, whenever you can choose to be involved.
I would advise parents to allow time at the end of the day to read any information available about your child’s day and to thank educators for their time and service. Remember this can be the child care workers most stressful time of the day – the children (and staff are tired), people are coming and going in all directions, parents want to speak to staff when they are trying to supervise or interact with the children remaining, socks or shoes are missing, etc, etc, etc. In fact, if you are in the position to, train yourself to think the centre closes ten minutes earlier than it actually does so that you are not rushing in and out (or risking running late), allowing yourself time to find out about your child’s day and collect their belongings peacefully.
By choosing carefully, planning this massive change in your family’s routine sensitively and working together with the child care educators, you and your child will have the best chance of a smooth start on the journey into child care.
The ABC of Child Care series of posts aims to illustrate for parents what quality child care looks like in practice as both a tool for parents looking for child care for the first time and as a resource for all parents with children in care. As someone who ran a high quality centre for many years, I believe we all share a responsibility to ask questions and expect results when it comes to the environment and people caring for and educating our youngest and most impressionable citizens.
I can’t believe we only have one week of this child care alphabet to go! You can read the previous ABC of Child Care posts here.