Supporting Children through Unexpected Events
Changes to the Centre
We know consistency and routine help our children and families feel safe and settled in our early learning environments. However, changes may occur during your early learning journey. Your family situation may mean you have to change your early learning service. Or, from time to time, changes may occur at your service that are unavoidable or unplanned. Changes at your child’s early learning centre may include:
- Transitions to new rooms
- Staff member changes
- Temporary closures due to weather impacts or staff member shortages
- Public health measures, such as COVID-19 procedures
- Disruption in the surrounding environment, for example, construction or roadworks
- In rare cases, closure of a service
How does it impact your child?
Children thrive when they have a predictable routine, and they feel most secure in a familiar environment, so when changes happen at their early learning centres, they can appear unsettled, feel unsafe, or even experience signs of anxiety. These changes may include their familiar educator leaving, their friends transitioning to other rooms or other centres, changes to their play areas, as well as the temporary or permanent closure of their early learning centre.
Change can be a difficult concept for children. However, changes also offer children the opportunity to develop resilience. Resilience is the ability to cope or to ‘bounce back’ after experiencing challenges, unexpected changes, or setbacks. Children are most resilient, settled, and ready to learn when they feel calm and safe in their early learning environment.
How can I support my child?
Infant – Birth to 2 years
Young children under the age of 2 years are still developing their speech and language and have a limited understanding of language. When speaking with your young child, it is best to use appropriate, reassuring and age-appropriate language. The repetition of specific words or phrases such as “your new teacher is Miss Beth” together with “you will get to know her quickly” is better understood by your young child than engaging in long drawn-out conversations.
If you’re starting with new centres or educators, communicate your child’s familiar routine to them. They will help your child rebuild that sense of security by creating warm and responsive relationships that meet your child’s individual needs.
It also helps to redirect your child onto the more positive aspects of their learning environment rather than on what is missing or has changed. For example, at drop-off time, try to find something familiar, fun or comforting in your child’s learning environment that your child can re-focus on. This might be a particular piece of play equipment, familiar friends, or educators.
Preschool age – 3 years and above
Prepare in advance – Children over 3 years often have more developed speech and language skills than younger children. Where possible, talking to your child before the changes take effect will provide them time to process the information, so they know what to expect. Your child will benefit by having time to think about and process the information about the change beforehand so that it will not be a shock. Preparing your child in this way will provide comfort and reassurance and reduce any surprises or uncertainties.
When you discuss the changes with them, it helps to start with setting the scene and visualising the way things currently are. Then, explain the things they might notice that will be different (e.g. routine, friends, educators). These conversations that you have with your child will act as preparation to help them carry on their day while naturally adjusting to changes in their early learning environment.
Focus on the basics – Children of this age often have a better understanding of language, and this can make them susceptible to taking in too much information, resulting in overload, stress and worry. Therefore, it is best to be honest and use age-appropriate language. Focus on the facts about the changes at their centre and how this impacts them. Use clear and consistent language. Encourage them to ask any questions they may have. Try not to tell your child excessive details or let them overhear adults talking about it. Discussing reasons for the changes is not necessary at this age and will depend upon the context and each individual child.
Speak positively about the change – Children are very perceptive. They notice parents’ and carers’ emotions, behaviours and attitudes. As a parent or carer, you should model resilience by modelling a positive demeanour and behaviours toward the change. For example, “that new slide looks so fun!”. Your child will learn new positive associations and adjust more readily to changes in their early learning environment.
How G8 Education can support you and your family
Talk to your centre manager and educators if you need help with a change at your service. Our centre managers and educators will work with you and your child or children to ensure we are sensitive to each child’s needs and can support their adjustment to the change.
Helpful resources for families
Parent line – or dial 1300 30 1300