New beginnings – the value of considerate orientations into ECEC
With the beginning of a new year, many families will be accessing education and care services for the first time, or settling their child and themselves into a new service.
While the focus on transitions at this time of year is often on those children moving from early childhood settings to the brand new world of ‘big school’, it is important to remember that adjusting to life in early childhood education and care (ECEC) for many families can be the first and most significant introduction to a life for their child which is separate from them.
As such, setting families up for a positive start is important. Families need to feel welcome, safe and supported. Each family comes to ECEC with their own values, beliefs, experiences and biases, all of which impact on the shape of who their child is, and who they will become.
Taking note of these individualities can support services to develop not only a meaningful curriculum, but also to tailor an orientation process which meets their needs.
Many services will use individual meetings or certain forms to learn more about each family, seeking to understand not only health and safety information, but also more about their hopes and dreams for their child, their current situation, and elements of the child’s life beyond the service, in the hopes of being as consistent as possible with home.
It can be helpful to remember that the orientation process, and the things that happen for families during orientation are the foundation of a lasting relationship with a family. As with all important relationships, trust, communication, clarity of expectation and ongoing ‘check ins’ during this time help to build a legacy of good will.
Reflecting on the process of how families are orientated into the service can be a powerful experience for educators and leaders. A number of questions can help to commence this process, including:
- How do we learn about individual children’s non-verbal cues and communication strategies, and the specific communication requirements of each child?
- When families enter our service, what message does our environment send? Can they see themselves represented here? Does our environment let them know they belong?
- How do we identify and overcome potential barriers to inclusion at the service so that each child’s participation is supported?
- What tools do we have to support children to form and maintain positive relationships with others?
- How do we identify and minimise the impact of our own biases on our practices and relationships with children and families? How are children’s rights considered in these reflections?
More information about respectful orientations to ECEC may be found here.