Transitioning a new child into your program can be as easy as 1-2-3 (minutes/days), or as hard as 2-3-4 (weeks!). Either end of the spectrum is considered well within the ranges of normal, depending on a child's previous experiences and temperament, and it's important to remember that children who attend infrequently (1-2 days per week) may take longer to adapt to their new environment.
When thinking through your approach to transitions, keep the following in mind:
- Use the Transitioning a New Child Into Your Program article to create a transition plan for families if you do not already have one
- Create a transition plan with every family
- At a minimum, have each family visit with their child for at least an hour before enrolling
- Ideally, transition a child in by starting with visits, progressing to short days, then extending to full days of care.
- Download and read this article on transitions for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and when special needs are a consideration
- Talk with parents about how they will say goodbye before their first day at your program
- We never advocate for parents to sneak away without saying goodbye. They should always let their child know that they are leaving and that they will return, even if it's painful in the moment
- Some families will want your assistance (i.e., you hold the child while they are leaving), while others will find their own rhythm and routine (i.e., read a book with their child and then say goodbye)
- During a transition time, communicate frequently with parents
- Share positive moments, no matter how small
- Be honest about challenges
- Check in with them as needed throughout the day to let them know how their child is doing (assuming it doesn't pull you away from the children in your care, of course)
What should you do if a child is having a hard time transitioning?
- Reflect and honor their feelings - let them know you can see they are unhappy/sad/upset/worried, and that their parents will come back at the end of the day
- Go about your day and routine as normal - work through the tears, or despite the tears, as best as you are able. A predictable and consistent routine will help children transition faster, because they can learn what to expect throughout their day
- Allow and encourage families to bring in family photos. Let the child look at/hold/carry a photo if that is helpful
- Allow a "lovey" item from home and retire it over time as the child is finding more success within their day
- Be gentle with yourself and your expectations - be extra kind to yourself as you work through this period of adjustment. You got this! You can do it! We're here for you!
Need help? Reach out to Wonderschool anytime at hello@wonderschool for support!