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Supporting children during transitions

Last updated: February 4, 2024

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During the early childhood years children experience many transitions, whether in long day care, family day care, preschool or outside school hours care.

Transitions in centre-based education and care settings often occur between rooms, groups, educators or school. In family day care, children may experience transitions to another educator, preschool service or school. These transitions can arise at the beginning of the year or at any point during the year.

In preparation, it may be useful to consider ways to support your child if they are transitioning to a new group, room or service. Transitions are changes that offer opportunities and challenges for children – identifying the opportunities and navigating challenges are important for your child’s development.

Like any change process, the very mention of a child transitioning to a new group, educator or service can sometimes cause excitement and/or apprehension for both the child and their family. As a parent or carer, you may question whether your child and family are ready to make this change and if your child will be well supported throughout the transition process.

The educators at your service play an important role in establishing effective transitions that support children through change, helping them confidently continue their learning, fostering resilience and optimism. It is important to ask educators about their plans to collaborate with you in planning and implementing transitions that support individual children’s interests, preferences and requirements.

You might want to ask about how they will talk with your child about what is about to happen, what they can expect, and share age-appropriate information about the activities, experiences, routines and transitions.

Tips on supporting your child through transitions

The following tips may help to prepare your child for the transition and help them feel secure and confident in their new learning environment.

1. Have a conversation with the educators within the learning environments

Some questions you may ask might include:

  • What are the similarities and differences between the rooms, groups, educators or services?
  • What does the rhythm of the day or routines look like and how will their day change?
  • Is there anything that you will need to bring that is different from or additional to the room?
  • Will my child have an opportunity to visit the new room, group, educator or service prior to their transition? If so, when and how often?
  • How can you best work with educators to plan a smooth transition?
  • What plans do educators have in place to get to know my child and their interests and preferences?
  • Will any of my child’s friends be making the transition at the same time?

2. Introduce the educators within the new learning environment to your child

Share information with educators about your child’s interests, favourite activities, health needs, etc and discuss the program and how it supports your child’s learning and development. This will assist in building shared understandings and positive relationships with new educators.

If possible:

  • Invite your child to lead this discussion and ask questions of the educator(s).
  • Invite the educator(s) to share what they like best about the program, environments, activities and experiences children will get to choose to participate in.

3. Have regular and in-depth positive conversations with your child around the transition

This should occur before the transition, during and after the transition. These conversations will allow you and your child to discuss the emotions, thoughts and feelings that either of you may have. Being positive when talking about the transition will support your child to approach the change with optimism, confidence and knowledge.

4. Work in collaboration with the service to identify achievable goals

Any transition can be a big change for your child and the emotions that come with transitions are valid. Setting your child and yourself some achievable goals will allow you to take those small steps whilst achieving big wins towards your child feeling comfortable and confident with their new educator(s) and within their new space or routine.

For younger children in a centre-based service, examples could include:

  • If your child is not yet comfortable with starting the day in the new learning environment, your child could drop their bag in their previous room before beginning the day in their new room.
  • Your child could actively engage in play experiences or a mealtime in the new learning environment for an agreed period to get to know the other children and educators, as well as the rhythms and routines of the group.
  • The morning routine might be spent within the new learning environment (and progressively get longer).
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