C.1. Get Ready! First Time Families

CHANGE IS! Supporting Children through Transitions

Change is an inevitable part of life. It is a goal for UNOW to provide appropriate support to children and families whenever life transitions occur. Transitions for children and families can be stressful even if it is a positive change.  The partnership between families and teachers is critical to the success with any life change.  Parents are encouraged to share any life change events that may occur during the year so the staff can support the child through those events.  Such changes may include a pending move, absence of a parent, birth/adoption of a new child in the family etc.  There are four types of transitions at UNOW addressed in this section:  Families and Children Beginning at UNOW; Daily Transitions in the Life of the Classroom; Transitioning to a New Classroom at UNOW and Leaving UNOW to transition to Kindergarten or a New Program.

GET READY! GET SET! GO! Families Starting at UNOW for the First Time

We want families to feel welcome, informed and supported with their new beginning at UNOW.  The following opportunities are in place to assist families and to begin the partnership between teacher and parent/guardian and to help the child feel secure and loved in their new routine and space.

Parent Orientation

Once a child has been enrolled, the parent(s) will meet with the UNOW Director and/or Associate Director for an orientation prior to the child’s first day.  The Director will review policies and procedures and other necessary paperwork.  The purpose of the orientation is to help families become acquainted with the administration and the philosophy and policies of the program. 

Classroom Orientation and Socializations

UNOW requires the parent and child to visit the classroom for at least one hour prior to the child’s first day of school.  Depending on the family situation and the child’s adjustment to the new setting, we may recommend several visits for both the parent and child.   The parent(s) must remain in the building during the entire classroom visit.  The purpose of the classroom visit is to allow the child to get acquainted with the environment and to meet the teachers and their new friends in the classroom.  It is also an opportunity for parents to ask teachers questions about the day-to-day happenings of the program.  This is the beginning of the parent/teacher partnership.  This is also the time to begin the discussion of how to help with separation and assist with any adjustment to the classroom. 

Transition Plans

Transition plans are arranged with the parent(s) and the classroom teacher.  Transition plans are based on the individual needs of the child and family.  Some children have more difficulty separating from their parents than others.  The classroom teacher and parent(s) will work together to determine the best approach to making the child’s transition a success for everyone.  Some children are ready to start right away and others need to begin with half-day sessions or need to have the parent present for a couple of days.  The transitional plan will begin on the child’s first day of school and will generally last no more than a week or two.  The plan may be modified as the child becomes acquainted with his/her surroundings and as the family and teacher deem appropriate. 

Home Visits/Classroom Visits

Prior to the child’s first day of attendance parents of infants and toddlers are expected to receive a home visit or to have a one-on-one meeting with the teacher at the center with their classroom teacher.  It is important for the teachers to talk with the family and discuss the many needs of the infant/toddler.  This will help the teachers and parents to form a strong partnership which is so important to helping us provide quality care for your infant/toddler.  Families of newly enrolled preschool age children are invited to receive a home visit from the classroom teachers but is not required.  However, we do require that the child and parent/guardian visit the classroom.  The classroom visit is an opportunity for the child to meet their teachers and new friends and for the parents to ask questions and share information with the teachers. (Home visits will not be fully implemented or expected until staff are trained and families are clearly informed of the purpose and intent of home visits.  It is expected that home visits will be an option for families by fall of 2019)

Back to School Night

This is an early evening event that usually occurs within the first month of school of the new program year.  Teachers prepare the classroom environment to include materials and activities as well as explanations of learning that occur in the classroom. Parents/Guardians are welcome and encouraged to attend, experience the classroom environment and speak with the classroom team.  The Back to School Night is an adult only activity for the preschool age children.  Back to School Night may have a slightly different approach for families in the infant and young toddler classrooms. Information shared will be available if you are unable to attend.

Tips for drop off and the first days of attendance

Separation and Drop off - Conversations the night before or the morning of, can help make the difference in the success of drop off.  It is normal for children and families to feel stress at the start of a new program.  However, there are ways to make it smooth and to decrease the amount of time it takes for children and families to acclimate to their new environment and routine.

Be prepared – On the night before, have the child’s clothing and items for school ready for the next day (extra clothes, diapers, bottles, outdoor clothing etc.).  Depending on the age of the child, the child may want to help pick out their clothing or “lovey” that they would like to bring.  Having everything ready the night before will save families time during the rush of morning.  It may also help to include a picture of your family or something from the parent that might provide comfort when your child is missing you.  Visit the local library and check out children’s books to read to your child about starting school.  “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn is a well-known book that helps children feel comforted about starting at a new program. 

Keep it positive – Children often feel the stress of those around them.  Although, families may be feeling stress, do your best to keep the conversation positive when talking about the new beginning.  Talking with the teachers or family members may also provide support and encouragement.  Teachers may suggest helpful articles for families to read in preparation of the new beginning.  Help children anticipate going to school by sharing the exciting or comforting things about their new environment.  Talk about the teachers’ names and the activity they may like or the friends they will see.  Always remind children that you will be back at the end of the day.   You may want to explain your pick up time being after nap or after outside play.  It is okay to mention that you will be thinking of them and wondering about what they are doing during the day.

Avoid the use of bribes – Although it is tempting to bribe a child at drop off it can have the opposite effect.  When you tell a child, “Mommy will take you for ice cream after school if you don’t cry”; the child interprets the message that the classroom experience is something to endure. It is more helpful to talk about the exciting or more nurturing experiences in their new environment.  Alternative to bribes may include statements which are more realistic yet positive; “Your teachers and friends are waiting for you to come to school.” or “Mommy will be thinking of you during the day.  Mommy will be thinking about you when you are playing.  Mommy or Daddy will always come and pick you up after nap time.” 

Keep a short and simple routine – Once you arrive at the center, establish a routine that you can follow consistently from day to day.  Routines offer children security and predictability.  Be sure to enter the classroom when dropping off your child. By entering, it tells the child that this is a safe and friendly place to be.  Upon entering the room, you must sign your child into the classroom and sign out of the classroom at pick up each day.  Parent and child should go to the bathroom area and share in the daily handwashing routine.  This practice is soothing for children and maintains good health practices.  Once you are ready to go, start your good-bye-routine.  This may include a routine such as: three kisses and one hug, letting the child give you a “push” out of the room, read one story and give a kiss etc. 

Lingering often adds to anxiety. Separation anxiety is a common occurrence and can continue for a number of weeks depending on the child.  The anxiety is most heightened from the anticipation of the parent leaving more so than the parent actually leaving.  It is important to be clear to the child that it is time for you to go and to keep the good bye short and simple. Once the routine is in motion and you are ready to exit the teacher will comfort the child and support with the transition.  

If you plan to stay, make sure you play.  In other words, if you are staying with the child, it is most helpful that the child get acclimated into an activity.  It also demonstrates that this is a fun place to be. You may want to read a book in the book area, or put one puzzle together in the rug area. It is important to work out a plan of separation with the classroom teacher so they can be most supportive with the departure. For example, a staff member may continue the play with your child as you exit the classroom.

Avoid sneaking out of the room.  We know the temptation is high when your child is distracted and involved in play to quietly step out before your child realizes you are gone.  Sneaking away builds distrust and does not support the child’s ability to adjust to change and build secure attachments through transitions.  Be sure to let the teacher and the child know you are leaving so we can assist you and the child with your departure.

The Parent/Guardian must sign in and out upon drop off and pick up each day.  The sign in and out sheet will be available in your child’s classroom.  Signing in and out each day is a licensing requirement for safety purposes to maintain accountability of children coming and going from the program.

Tips for pick up

Reuniting sometimes feels so good and sometimes reuniting means more fighting – Although parents may be happy to greet their child and hear about their child’s day, this is another adjustment time for children.  Children must now make the transition from the care of their teachers to their family.  Sometimes children may be confused or angry that you left them earlier in the day.  These emotions may be manifested in tantrums, refusal to cooperate and indifference to parents.  Parents may feel confused and upset by their child’s behavior.  Teachers can help during this period.  It is helpful to arrive at a predictable time each day.  Coming early can give yourself and your child enough time to transition. It may also be helpful to allow time for your child to show you something from their classroom.  You may want to have a brief chat with your child’s teacher and to get an update from your child’s day. For children under 2 ½, you can expect written daily notes.  For children older than 2 ½ there are general notices emailed or posted to families at least weekly if not daily.  These notes may help prompt conversation. Children often need time to settle back in at home before they bubble up with conversations about their day.  Let them take the lead and don’t be surprise if they don’t share at all.

The UNOW program ends promptly at 6:00 pm.  It is important that you arrive before 6:00 pm in order to ensure ample time for a smooth transition home.  If you know you are going to be late, it is helpful to the classroom and the child if you call in and notify the teacher of your expected late arrival.  Sometimes children get upset if they are the last one in the classroom and if the teacher knows you will be late they can help prepare the child for your arrival.  There will be a late charge for any child picked up after 6:00 pm.

The classrooms and the common rooms are not available for children’s play after 6:00 pm.  Please do not bring your children back to the room or other rooms to play after you have picked up.  Arriving before 6:00 pm can make the transition easier. It may take 5 to 10 minutes to wind down and spend time with your child and talk to your child’s teacher before leaving. 

Remember you are responsible for your child at pick up time.  If your child or a sibling leaves the room without you, please follow and bring him or her back with you.  If you have more than one child, please know that all your children must be picked up by 6:00 pm. or there will be a late fee applied to your next monthly tuition statement. Families need to leave the building by 6:00 pm to respect the time of UNOW staff.  It is the end of the work day for staff and they would also like to get home to their family and personal lives.  Please see Late Pick up fee policy under the General Program Policy section.

Acclimating Children with Diagnosed Disabilities or Identified Medical Needs

UNOW is an inclusive environment and we welcome all children into our program; understanding that we will do our best to be an environment with the least restrictions to the growth and development of all children enrolled at UNOW (as stated in the ADA, ADEA laws for children with disabilities).  It may be determined that if we are unable to provide an optimum environment for a particular child we will support the family and help the family to find the resources available to lead them to the most appropriate setting.

Before a child with any identified medical need or diagnosed disability begins their first day at UNOW, there will be a scheduled support team meeting with the parent(s), specialist(s), classroom teacher(s) and the UNOW Program Coordinator.  The purpose of the meeting is to inform the teachers and the Program Coordinator of needed information regarding the medical condition or diagnosed disability and to arrange necessary supports for a smooth transition for the child, family, teachers and existing children in the classroom.  A written support team report will be filled out and signed the day of the meeting and a copy is given to the parent(s) and the classroom teacher.  A follow up meeting will take place on a date and time determined during the first meeting.  Children with a medical need will need to have a medical care plan completed and signed by their pediatrician.