Attending a quality early childhood program delivers positive educational and developmental outcomes for children. For families it can also be a safe place to access additional supports they may need, this is particularly true for families experiencing vulnerability.
Early childhood professionals understand the importance of planning and prioritising a smooth transition back to your service for families and children and the role this plays in supporting continuity of learning and development.
Where children do not return to on-site learning services should make contact with families and encourage a return to the service. If families continue to choose to keep their child at home, services should make reasonable efforts to support learning from home taking into consideration the individual circumstances of your service including your on-site learning responsibilities.
In Term 2 2020, a series of free webinars were delivered by Semann & Slattery on behalf of the department. The final webinar, a conversation between Dr Anne Kennedy and Anthony Semann, focussed on supporting children returning to services. This webinar contains useful information for you to consider as you plan to support children to return to your service.
Supporting children returning to your service after learning from home
There are a number of practical steps you can take to support families and children to return to the service.
Contact families to discuss their return plans. Based on your knowledge of the individual circumstances of the families at your service you may need like to prioritise families who are experiencing vulnerability or who were anxious about returning to on-site attendance earlier in 2020.
Reassure families about measures you have in place to manage risks and concerns. A has been developed to support services to communicate with families. In your communication with families include any health and safety measures your service has put in place.
Remind families of the benefits of early childhood education
Remind families about the benefits of attendance at an early childhood program.
Develop a re-orientation process
Consider developing a re-orientation process to reconnect children back to the service and advise families about how you will help them and their children feel safe and comfortable.
Test a gradual return to the service
For some families it might be worth suggesting returning back slowly and gradually increasing their days over a few weeks.
Invite families to attend virtually or in-person
For families who remain concerned, you might invite them to spend time in the service, either virtually or in person, as a way of providing additional reassurance.
Re-engaging families and children experiencing vulnerability
In instances where children and families are experiencing vulnerabilities and complex issues, the return to on-site attendance may be more challenging and also more critical. It is particularly important to keep in mind children's experience in being isolated from social contexts with peers and additional pressures on families, including financial hardship. There are a range of issues that teachers and educators should be aware of when families and children experiencing vulnerability return to the service. These include:
Educators and teachers play an important role in ensuring every child's nutritional needs are met, especially when they work in areas where vulnerability is high. You might want to consider offering food and drinks more often including starting earlier and continuing until later in the day.
Normal routines may have been disrupted while children were learning from home. It is important that children have sufficient rest and sleep during the day so you may need to explore a range of strategies that give children addition time to relax, rest or sleep.
Disruption to routines may have resulted in children regressing in some areas of development, such as toileting. You can support children by planning experiences and routines that allow children to feel safe and nurtured.
Attachments are critical for healthy relationships. To support these attachments try and maintain consistency in staffing as this supports and fosters relationships.
Educators and teachers understand the importance of looking 'behind' or 'beyond' the behaviours to find the cause. If children are experiencing challenges with self-regulation as they return to on-site learning you should seek to understand the behaviour before you attempt to support a change. Consider what might be triggering particular behaviours and attempt to reduce or eliminate these triggers; and where possible work in partnership to support both the child and the family to do this.
Reviewed 17 March 2022