Welcoming back to Early Learning

Welcoming back to Early Learning

Supporting mokopuna and whānau through change

Parent kids arriving at school

This is a time when the relationships between the early learning service and whānau are so important. The strength of whakawhanaungatanga and manaakitanga with whānau and your early learning service sets the foundation whānau have with their engagement in education. This is especially important at times of change and uncertainty.

Prior to the first day of attendance some mokopuna may cling, cry, have temper tantrums, complain of headaches, or stomach pains more than usual or be quiet and withdrawn. Mokopuna will look to adults for comfort and reassurance so being calm, confident, and enabling time and space to be together with mokopuna and their whānau will help everyone return to the “new normal”.  

The new routines you have established during time away will provide mokopuna with a reassuring rhythm of the days to come and a sense of security. Any changes in routine may be unsettling at first, but reinforcing this with pictures, words, actions and repetition will help mokopuna settle back in their early learning service.   

Some suggestions

  • Welcome and prepare whānau by communicating with them in advance about what to expect: what might be different and what will be the same eg. arrival times, hand cleaning on arrival, physical distancing and any changes to routines. Reassure them that the Ministry of Education and Health work closely together to ensure mokopuna are safe at the service.
  • Encourage conversations about the changes, why these are in place and the positive aspects of being back together, what you are looking forward to, and what they are looking forward to for their mokopuna and for themselves. Limit assurances you give to whānau such as “Don’t worry!” or “Everything will be fine!”
  • Work with mokopuna to help them engage in, understand and become familiar with any new routines, changes and hygiene practices. Having routines, knowing how to keep healthy and adjusting to these, is important for mokopuna and whānau learning and wellbeing. Visual supports and practicing routine changes e.g., with photos of mokopuna and whānau engaging in hand cleaning or other new routines will be useful. 
  • Most mokopuna will be excited about being back at their centre, re-engaging with their kaiako, playing and learning with and alongside their friends. 
  • Be aware of those mokopuna who may be anxious and/or nervous. The four main fears are likely to be: leaving their whānau; adapting to changes in routine; fears about getting sick; fears about friendships, e.g., will my friends be there, who will I play with? 
  • Check in with whānau who haven’t returned to the service. State that you are looking forward to seeing them again. Enquire about when they might restart and if there is anything you can help with, or anything stopping their return. Help problem solve together as needed. 
  • Be mindful of additional supports and considerations that might be needed for mokopuna and whānau with English as second language.

Anxiety about returning

Some whānau will be anxious about their mokopuna returning to their early learning service after time away, while others will be excited.  

Anxious and nervous feelings are normal and expected during times of transition or change and this transition maybe particularly stressful and disruptive for some whānau.

Returning to your Early Learning Service after a break

Two kids and teacher

This is a time when the relationships between the early learning service and whānau are so important. The strength of whakawhanaungatanga and manaakitanga with whānau and your early learning service sets the foundation whanau have with their engagement in education. This is especially important at times of change and uncertainty.

Prior to the first day of attendance some mokopuna may cling, cry, have temper tantrums, complain of headaches, or stomach pains more than usual or be quiet and withdrawn. Mokopuna will look to adults for comfort and reassurance so being calm, confident, and enabling time and space to be together with mokopuna and their whānau will help everyone return to the “new normal”.  

The new routines you have established during time away will provide mokopuna with a reassuring rhythm of the days to come and a sense of security. Any changes in routine may be unsettling at first, but reinforcing this with pictures, words, actions and repetition will help mokopuna settle back in their early learning service.   

Some suggestions:

  • Welcome and prepare whānau by communicating with them in advance about what to expect: what might be different and what will be the same eg. arrival times, hand cleaning on arrival, physical distancing and any changes to routines. Reassure them that the Ministry of Education and Health work closely together to ensure mokopuna are safe at the service.
  • Encourage conversations about the changes, why these are in place and the positive aspects of being back together, what you are looking forward to, and what they are looking forward to for their mokopuna and for themselves. Limit assurances you give to whanau such as “Don’t worry!” or “Everything will be fine!”
  • Work with mokopuna to help them engage in, understand and become familiar with any new routines, changes and hygiene practices. Having routines, knowing how to keep healthy and adjusting to these, is important for mokopuna and whānau learning and wellbeing. Visual supports and practicing routine changes e.g., with photos of mokopuna and whānau engaging in hand cleaning or other new routines will be useful. 
  • Most mokopuna will be excited about being back at their centre, re-engaging with their kāiako, playing and learning with and alongside their friends. 
  • Be aware of those mokopuna who may be anxious and/or nervous. The four main fears are likely to be: leaving their whānau; adapting to changes in routine; fears about getting sick; fears about friendships, e.g., will my friends be there, who will I play with? 
  • Check in with whānau who haven’t returned to the service. State that you are looking forward to seeing them again. Enquire about when they might restart and if there is anything you can help with, or anything stopping their return. Help problem solve together as needed. 
  • Be mindful of additional supports and considerations that might be needed for mokopuna and whānau with English as second language.

What to focus on

  • Creating a welcoming and supportive atmosphere for mokopuna will be very important.  
  • Acknowledging and supporting the feelings mokopuna have about returning to the service. There will be a range of feelings. Help them notice that everyone has different feelings and all feelings are OK.  
  • Limit assurances you give to whānau such as “Don’t worry!” or “Everything will be fine but help them focus on the positive aspects of being back.
  • Changes that are happening to protect their health and support their play and their whānau.   
  • Using strategies that positively acknowledge and reinforce mokopuna engaging in new routines and hygiene practices.     
  • Plan play and learning experiences that can optimise mokopuna playing together. Share fun things, they did, or noticed over the lockdown time.  
  • Things they have been looking forward to about being back at the centre and ideas they have that you can build on, to support being back together. Plan future activities together. 
  • Maintaining regular positive contact with whānau through normal channels such as storypark etc.

A sensitive approach

Teacher sitting and kid

Big life events like for example the pandemic has been tough on us all. In our communities, we have a rich and long history of acceptance of a variety of points of view and of philosophies. This is to be embraced. In this current context this means respecting people's views on Governmental policy and directive. Show compassion to the people around you and encourage mokopuna to do the same. Connect in positive and loving ways.

Check for parenting information and resources for whānau supporters on Kia matua rautia | Tākai (takai.nz).