Advice for services and whānau
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 returning, some tamariki may be more unsettled than usual. Tamariki will look to adults for comfort and reassurance so being calm, confident, and enabling time and space to be together will help everyone return to the “new normal”.
The new routines you have established during time away will provide tamariki 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 tamariki settle back in their early learning service.
- 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 tamariki 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 tamariki and for themselves. Limit assurances you give to whānau such as “Don’t worry!” or “Everything will be fine!”
- Work with tamariki 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 tamariki and whānau learning and wellbeing. Visual supports and practicing routine changes e.g., with photos of tamariki and whānau engaging in hand cleaning or other new routines will be useful.
- Most tamariki 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 tamariki 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 tamariki and whānau with English as second language.
Anxiety about returning
Some whānau will be anxious about their tamariki 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.
A sensitive approach
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).