In choosing a child care centre it is good to discuss with staff their suggested strategies for best orientating your child into the new environment. Some children come to child care with very few experiences of being cared for by anyone other than a parent and so it is only reasonable to expect that a degree of separation anxiety will occur as they settle into this new environment. However, even a child who has spent time away from immediate family may experience anxiety at moving into a group care environment. Every child is different and they will each handle separation in their own way. Separation anxiety may happen on day one or even a little later, when parents least expect it. It is a normal part of commencing child care as it takes time to form bonds with new adults and to adjust to a group care setting.
The centre may suggest visiting with your child on a number of occasions before they formally commence care, and/or advise you to only drop your child off for a very short while for their first few visits alone. Consider also how often your child attends child care over the course of the week. Children who only attend for one day a week may take longer to settle as they have limited time to build familiarity and relationships with educators and mastery over separation. This is also the reason why some centres maintain a policy of a minimum two days a week enrolment.
Also consider your own level of anxiety about separating from your child. They will be sensitive to how you respond to the situation. Modelling confidence about handling new situations is important to their lifelong learning. Remember, children will usually settle. More often than not, the child stops crying once their parent is out of view. Educators are very skilled at diverting their attention with interesting things going on in the environment. If you are anxious to know how they are going, it is better to call rather than visit the Centre.
Settling into child care can take time but a well thought out orientation, as well as patience, understanding and open communication between family and staff will help to soothe the child’s anxiety and assist the transition process.
Read previous posts from the ABC of Child Care series here.