There are always children who experience separation anxiety from parents. Some say it is more likely to be heightened as children return to childcare post lockdown. This is because children have become used to being at home during the hours they would have been with their childminder. There is some evidence that this is true but Childminding Ireland has spoken to a number of childminders who say that this was not as big an issue after the end of the last lockdown as they thought it might be.
This is testament to the fact that many childminders have kept in touch regularly with the children they mind during lockdowns including through video calls or video recordings. Some childminders have been recording themselves reading stories for children and sending them to parents. One childminder explained that during the first lock down the child she minded would get into his PJ’s and watch a video of her reading a story just before he got in to bed. What a lovely routine – and it helped his parents out too!
It may also help that many childminders live in the same neighbourhood as the children they mind. This means that they may have seen the children they mind while out for walks. Even a minimum amount of contact like this is bound to help children.
Many babies born in lockdown have not been able to experience or develop relationships with extended family members like grandparents and cousins. While this does appear to be an issue for some children, it is by no means universal. Children are resilient and sometimes we overthink or worry about things unnecessarily.
Not withstanding the above, childminders have shared some tips on how best to approach returning to childminding post lockdown.
Childminders Top Tips
Get in Touch – get in touch with the parents and children you mind if you haven’t been already. The advice here is to try to make contact virtually with children two to three times per week before children return to you.
Plan the Settling Back Period – if possible, stagger drop off times by at least half an hour in between each child arriving. This will mean you can settle one child before the next child arrives. If it is feasible, shorten the time the children are with you for the first few days as this will allow a gradual return to the new routine.
Toys, Books & Music – use the children’s favourite toys, books and music as distraction tools. One childminder gets children to feed her fish as a settler! Every child is different so it’s important to have the appropriate prop ready to welcome the child back.
Reassurance – reassure both children and parents that you are looking forward to welcoming them back and minding them. Remind them of how well both children and parents adjusted to the return after the previous lockdown.
If a child is unsettled, offering them reassurance and giving extra cuddles and physical contact time is key. For an anxious child, it may take a period of time before they settle so taking things slowly will be important.
Photos - once children are settled and playing as normal during the first day back, send a photo to parents for reassurance. One childminder has laminated photos of parents and grandparents of the children she minds. She gives these to children as a way of settling and reassuring children if they are upset.
Communication - communicate with parents that there will be a settling back period. Also remind them that all the Covid guidelines are still in place. Be honest with parents after the first day back even if it wasn’t as smooth as you might have liked!
Changes – find out from parents in advance, if anything has changed since their children were last with you. This can range from interest in toys and books to family circumstances. This will help you be prepared. For example, a child may no longer be using a soother. This would be important to know so that you can mirror what is happening at home.
Drive By – if the children you mind are within 5Km of you, arrange for parents to drive by your house with their children a few days before the reopening so you can wave from the garden as they drive by.
Many thanks to childminders Leigh Ann, Caroline, Briege, Trina and Eileen for their contributions to this article.