Helping Your Child Settle into a New Environment
Date Posted:10 January 2020
It can be stressful for both you and your child when it is time for them to transition into a new environment — whether it’s childcare, a new school, or a new classroom. It can be emotionally challenging for children, particularly if they find it hard to be away from their parents. But don’t worry, every child will experience adjusting to a new situation and the emotions that accompany it. It is a big step in this stage of their life and it is not unusual for children to have trouble navigating through it.
Here are 6 tips you can use to help manage separation anxiety and help your child settle into a new space.
1. Familiarise your child with their educators and classmates
Kids need to have a connection with someone to help them feel safe and comfortable.1 When they are not with their parents or guardians, they will refocus their attention to other adults around them. In this case, their educators will be the people they turn to for security and comfort.
If possible, attend an orientation before your child starts childcare or school to let them explore and be familiar with the space. This will assist in kick-starting a relationship between your child and their educators. Your presence will let your child know that they are trustworthy; and will encourage your child to trust and be comfortable with the educator. Let the educators know about your child’s anxieties, interests, and routines.2 This can help educators to understand their needs and build a bond with your child. Just this simple act will make it easier for your little ones to transition between home and childcare or school!
Orientations are also great opportunities for your child to get to know the other kids in their class, so they will have pals on their first day – I’m sure you’ve seen how fast your little one makes friends!
2. Ask if they want to bring their comfort object with them
Almost every child has a comfort object. This object builds a link between a new situation and the comfort of home; it is a reminder of love and security for the child.
Your child may choose to bring a toy or an object that reminds them of home. It can help by calming them down when they feel anxious or alone. You should let them decide if they want to bring their teddy or blankie with them to childcare or school. If they decide to do so, encourage them to pack it in their bags alongside other essentials they need for the day.
This can help to reduce their separation anxiety, knowing that they packed their favourite toy in their bag and comfort is within reach.3
3. Prepare them for the separation
You can help ease the transition between home and childcare or school by establishing a goodbye routine. The routine will signal that it is time for you to leave and it prepares them for your departure. Avoid long and emotional goodbyes as it will elevate your child’s anxiety. A short and sweet goodbye will suffice, and it is crucial that you reassure your child that you will return. You can tell them “Mummy/Daddy will be back later” or “We will come back to pick you up”.
It will help them understand the concept of separation when you leave with a proper goodbye and a reminder that you will return. This will ease your child’s anxiety and provide security. You should also start introducing other caregivers to your child at a young age. This will train your child to be without their parents for a while. This will not only help minimise separation anxiety in the future, but will also train your child to be around different people and interact with others.4
4. Empathise with them
Empathise with your child when they share their anxieties with you. Listen to them when they’re talking. That way, they will be open to sharing their feelings. Reassure your child of their worries and work with them to solve their problems. It can help train your child’s problem-solving skills, especially if you let them come up with their own solutions. Empathising with your little ones will help them realise that they have the ability to handle any problems thrown their way.
For example, if your child is nervous about entering a new environment, you can share positive stories from your experience. Tell them how nervous you were about your first day of school and how you got over the nervousness. If they’re having trouble making friends at childcare or at school, walk them through a scenario. When they come up with their own solutions, it is more likely that they will know how to deal with the situation in real life.1
5. Stay connected with your child
After a long day of being apart, there is nothing better than snuggling up with your child and talking about their day. It is important to connect with them in order to maintain a strong relationship. Give them your undivided attention, listen when they are talking, and ask questions about what they talked about to show that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say.
This will keep you in the loop of how your child feels about attending childcare or school, and how they are coping with being in different social settings. When you spend quality time with them, they are more comfortable sharing what goes on in their life.2
6. Create a routine
Both adults and kids should go to bed early if they have to wake up early. Well-rested individuals will have enough energy to cope with any challenges thrown their way. If your child is energised to start the day, it is more likely that they will look forward to going to childcare or school. The last thing you want is to deal with a cranky, sleep-deprived child in the morning!
Routines give children a sense of security. Children handle change best when it occurs in an expected routine. Once your child is familiar with a daily routine of going to bed early, waking up early and separating to attend childcare or school, the transition will be easier for them. Eventually, when they have to move from one classroom to another, they will know how to handle their anxieties and settle into a new social setting.5
Now that you’ve gone through these 6 steps, your child is ready to step out and explore the world on their own terms. They’re ready to enter new social situations and learn to handle the anxieties that come along with it. They will start looking forward to attending school or childcare!
If your child is attending one of our Piptree centres and you have some questions or concerns, please get in touch with us here.
- Aha! Parenting. (n.d.). Twelve Tips to Help Your Child Adjust to School. (Link)
- Starting Blocks. (n.d.). How can you help your child settle into child care? (Link)
- Brown, A. (2018). When should you worry about your child’s attachment to comfort items? (Link)
- Ceder, J. (2019). The Importance of Saying Goodbye to Your Child. (Link)
- Aha! Parenting. (n.d.). Why Kids Need Routines. (Link)