By CELA on 18 Apr, 2017

Congratulations on your new role.  There is a lot to learn each time you start with a family.   Your new family is unique, with their own values and beliefs about raising their child. Each child has their own personality, temperament and interests for you to learn about.

It is in everyone’s best interests then that your first day is not the first one where you are left in sole charge of the child or children. Children, particularly babies and toddlers use their parents as social references.  This means that they will watch their parent’s faces, body language and tone of voice to decide whether a new person is a safe, friendly individual.  Remember that if you are talking about the child in front of them, children will listen.  Young children understand far more than they can speak, so make sure you use positive language and include them respectfully in the conversation.

There are a number of other factors that will also influence the child’s response to you.  Each child’s personality will determine how comfortable they are around new people. The social life of the family also plays a part in how children relates to new people.

For a comfortable transition for all involved, try to organise a few short playdates with the parent and child ahead of your start in the home.  Over a one or two hour meeting you can:

Observe how the parents interact with their child. Their methods will give you lots of ideas on how best to soothe, comfort and converse with the child as they know their son or daughter’s cues, likes and dislikes.

Listen to the messages that the parents give their child so that you can be consistent with the values both parents show.

Play with the child and their family. this builds trust with both parents and children as they learn about how you will interact and care.

Bring along a small activity such as bubbles to help you to engage in playing with the child yourself.

Take the relationship slowly. Remember to keep engaging and giving the child the time and space they need to become used to you.

This is also a good opportunity to talk further with the parents about the practical things you need to know.

Make a checklist so you don’t forget to ask about things such as:

  • where to find the child’s belongings and other important items in the house
  • hygiene practices
  • the child’s routine
  • the child’s likes and dislikes
  • activities and parks in the area
  • what the parents would like you to help with in the house
  • how the parents would like to receive communication about the child’s day
  • using the pram/car/appliances and so on

Finally, discuss with the parents what they have told their child about having you come to help out. Talk to the child about how you are looking forward to this and the kinds of things you look forward to doing together.

Time invested in a good orientation is the basis for the start of strong relationships.  Enjoy your new role!

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Meet the author

Kathleen Herrick​

​Kathleen is a member of the Community Early Learning Australia and an experienced educator, trainer and adviser.

About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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