Saying goodbye to a daycare friend
Most children will experience one of their friends leaving their daycare group during early childhood. Of course, a child can leave daycare for many reasons: kindergarten, a move, change in daycare, etc. This can lead to a period of "mourning", especially for children who were quite fond of the child who is leaving the group.
Although this situation is packed with learning opportunities and relatively normal, some children may react quite strongly to their friend's departure. Children can feel sad or confused. If the child's departure is planned and the other children are given time to prepare, their reactions will most likely be less drastic, since they will have had time to say goodbye. Unfortunately, a child may also leave the group without warning. When this occurs, it is very important to discuss the situation with the children who continue to attend your daycare.
How can you accompany children and help them accept their friend's departure?
First, accept the emotions children are feeling. Invite them to talk about what they are feeling and keep an open mind. Avoid judging children or trivialising the situation. Remember that children live in the "here and now". Even if you have prepared them for their friend's departure, they may not have fully understood what would happen. Their emotions may surface only once the other child is no longer present. Sit down with the children in your group and talk to them once the child is gone.
Explain the situation using simple words. If possible, invite the child who is leaving to explain the situation to the group. Otherwise, be sure to inform your group in a way they will be able to understand.
Whenever possible, try to keep in touch with the child who has left your daycare. Invite him to visit the group from time to time. Also, the child could gradually decrease the number of days he attends your daycare to help his friends (and the child himself) get used to his absence.
You may also organize a "Goodbye party". Turn the child's last day at daycare into a celebration. Give the child a card and small souvenirs. This party can be very important for the entire group. If one or more children is/are leaving for kindergarten, organize a "Good luck in kindergarten" party. Invite parents to join you for the fun.
My last piece of advice is to be empathetic as opposed to sympathetic. Seeing a child leave your group will most likely lead to an emotional response for you too. It's perfectly normal. Allow yourself to experience these emotions, but try to avoid letting them affect the children in your group.
As I mentioned previously, goodbyes represent great learning opportunities and they are simply a part of life.
Maude Dubé, Specialized educator