There comes a time when clients will leave. While clients move on for a variety of reasons, you will probably have some sense of loss when they leave. You’ve shared an interesting bond for the time you were together. While it’s not quite the same as that of relatives, it’s still real because you saw each other almost every day. Children have a way of smiling their way into our hearts and showing us just and special and unique they are. We come to learn what makes them laugh, cry, sad, angry, and afraid.
It’s hard to say which good-byes are hardest – the ones who leave because they’ve “graduated” from your program, those who leave because circumstances prevent them from being able to continue, or those who need to leave because of a move. I think when you must say good-bye to a child you’ve seen grow and learn new skills right before your eyes, you tend to be a little more affected. We know when they enroll that we won’t have them forever, but good-byes are strange and can be difficult when you’ve seen each other regularly for so long. When the announcement comes, you’re happy for the family and are excited for them. After about a day, it sinks in that the little person that brought you little giggles, laughed at your jokes and silly faces, sang songs with you, gave you hugs for no reason at all, picked dandelions so you could have a “flower,” ran to you for comfort or protection when he got scared, laughed after he wet you during a diaper change, learned how to stand and walk during the time he was enrolled, and reached several milestones during the months he was in care will no longer be part of your little daycare crew.
It’s important for children to have closure and a chance to say good-bye to help them adjust when the child stops showing up daily. Children develop friendships in daycare and tend to look forward to the times they can play together. Try not to spring it on them but let them know ahead of time that they can expect a “last day.” If possible, try to make the day special by fixing a favorite lunch, enjoying a field trip, or watching a favorite movie together. Kids need to understand that it is not their fault that they’re friend will no longer be attending and that they can still like each other even though they will not see each other every day.
Transitions like these can be pretty emotional, but they must happen at some point. We help set the tone for the ease of them joining and the ease of them leaving. Be thankful for the impact you had a chance to leave with this child and his family, and store the memories in your heart. Smile when you think back to the period of his enrollment. You were able to share in part of that child’s life at a precious time.