Helping Parents Through Transitions

About two months ago I wrote about my personal transition experience, and I am happy to say that things are working out for me in my new space. I feel like I am fitting in! While I offered some tips in that blog about helping children to transition, I realized I missed the opportunity to share how to help parents through transitions, too. It is sometimes as difficult for moms and dads as it is for their children!

We often talk about helping families adjust to the center for the first time. There are forms to fill out, teachers to meet and children’s schedules organize. However, there are other times that can be just as stressful for families. For some parents it feels like they’ve just dropped off a tiny baby, and suddenly their child is walking into the toddler room! Their baby is getting to be a “big kid.” These transitions are ones that we frequently miss, because for us, they are a natural part of life in child care.

We should stop and think about these changes from a parent’s perspective.  We should ask ourselves: What are they really feeling? Why are they feeling this way? How can we help make it easier?  When a parent feels strong emotions about a transition, I often tried to look at some of it as a good thing! The families feel so comfortable with their current situation and are so happy with the quality of learning and care their child has been receiving that it’s hard to leave! It was very hard for that parent to leave their 6-week-old infant with a stranger, but now you and that parent have a relationship. You’ve shared stories about the baby’s day and nights, celebrated about milestones and cringed along with the parents when she get her first incident report. These families trust us with their little ones, and we need to trust them, too.

We know when a child is ready for the next room because we’ve worked with children, we know all about their development and how to best support their learning. But how much of that knowledge are we sharing with parents? Discuss with them how their child is ready, and how their child will thrive in a new space. Encourage parents to observe the new classroom.  Answer their questions about why things are different, and base it on what you know about their child.   You can also encourage parents to talk with other parents whose children have recently transitioned to a new classroom or to elementary school. Just like their babies, just like I did in my new position, parents need a little hand-holding sometimes, too. We all do.