Children. Daycare. Transitions.

We have had some children leave our infant program lately and their leaving has caused me to ask myself these questions. Do young children miss their caregivers and do they grieve?

 Children who attend daycare full time attach to their caregivers.  Sometimes they attach to one in particular and sometimes they attach more generally to all of those who care for them. The room or rooms they spend time in become so familiar.  The yard space they play in becomes so familiar. When you think about it, children who attend daycare full time,  literally "live" at the daycare for many hours during the day.  In fact it is possible, in some cases, that the majority of their awake time is spent in the care of those other than their family.

Today a co-worker from the 3-5 room came and told me that one of her littles was moving with his family to another city.  She came and told me because I used to have this same little one in the toddler room last year.  She came and told me because she knew, I knew, what it is like for us as caregivers to say good-bye to little ones that we care for and invest in and work with.  When she told me the news, I remembered when I took him into her room for his week of orientation from the toddler room to the 3-5's.  I remember giving the caregivers in that room the list of things we learned about supporting him and caring for him and loving him.  He does this....and he likes this...and remember to do this...and so it went.  I wanted him to do well and adjust and attach to his new caregivers and his new room.  I didn't want him to miss the toddler room too much or to miss the caregivers there too much.  My co-worker also has very strong feelings about seeing this little one move on to a new situation.

I realized yet again, that when children leave our care that we must respect and have a greater understanding of what it must be like for littles to love their caregivers and lose them a time later when they move on from that daycare room to another situation. At times transitions are so sudden that I worry when I think about what a small child must be thinking or feeling when one day they are in daycare and the next they are not and literally may never see their caregiver(s) again.

 I am really glad that our center gives children at least a full week to transition from room to room, or when a new child comes in for the first time.  Often we find ways to do more if we can.  In our center the infant and toddler rooms are divided but they children often go back and forth, particularly in the early morning or late afternoon.  I love that they can re-visit their "old" room or visit their potential "new" room.

We also do a lot of work with documentation. Photos are regularly emailed to the child's family. We usually have a small photo album for each child and send those photos home with that child when they are moving on.  Hopefully this is one way of preserving some memories for them.  We also encourage families to come back periodically and have a little visit if possible.

Good-by Mr. G.  You have become such a part of our lives!  We wish you all the best as you grow and mature.  You will be amazing in the toddler room!

Good-bye J.  We miss you so much already but know that your extended family are going to love getting to know you.  They will love hearing your delightful laughter and they will love watching you learn to walk.

Good-bye Miss F.  You love your dolls so much.  You are gentle and loving and sweet.  You have adapted so well in the toddler room.

And so it goes.  Little ones come and go.  We have them in our care for a season, a short time, and then they move on. If a little one is old enough to love they are old enough to mourn.  Let's be cognizant of that.  Let's be more aware of the relationships they have made and what it might be like for them to have to say good-bye. Let's be aware that they may have big feelings but are too young to process them on their own.  So let's acknowledge their feelings and be aware that there might be some behaviors that emerge because of a change. Let's prepare them for the coming changes as best we can. 

What I know and have observed, is that children are amazingly resilient and do adjust and adapt to changes in their lives.  I think that the more we are respectful, aware and supportive during the transition, the smoother it goes! 

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