Continuity of experience and strong relationships

The start of the year is always a time of new beginnings for children, families and for us as educators. We’re all making transitions in one way or the other. For most of us the transitions are positive. For others they can be more uncertain and challenging.

Again, it’s a time of the year, as seems to be the case all too often, when many families in Australia are affected by severe storms, floods or fires. This year, the extremes of our climate have destroyed homes and businesses in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. The resulting economic, health and social costs of these tragedies are almost too much to comprehend.

One of the most troubling aspects of disasters is that the trauma and rebuilding for affected families continues well after the images have left our TV screens. The rest of us forget all too quickly.

On the positive side, our communities are generally strong and resilient. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the cleaning and rebuilding effort underway in places like Bundaberg. But it’s not easy to recover from such tragedies—at so many levels. Our hearts go out to all families—and especially those who lost their homes and businesses twice (or more)—this year and in the 2011 floods.

In this issue of Every Child we’re looking at transitions as part of building quality and improving outcomes for children, especially vulnerable learners. Importantly, we’re focusing on building relationships and interacting positively and purposefully with children and families to achieve continuity of experience—whatever the context.

Sue Dockett stresses the adjustments and changes that families must make, when children start school. With the strong focus on building relationships in the Early Years Learning Framework in mind, Sue reminds us that some relationships can be lost, while ‘others are built between and among children, families and school staff’ and that families might need new strategies as ‘communicating with teachers at school can be different from communicating with educators in prior-to-school settings’.

Several writers highlight the importance of continuity of experiences for children and stress the need for educators to focus on providing children with stable, secure and rich education and care environments, especially as they experience change.

Pam Linke raises the idea of transitions in terms of adjustments for children and families where a parent works away from home for days or weeks—a situation that is increasingly common in our highly mobile society. She says that these separations can be hard on children as they ‘don’t have the same sense of time that adults do’, so the waiting for a parent to return home ‘can seem like a very long time indeed’.

In each of our articles the idea of building strong, secure relationships is highlighted as a key to successful social and cognitive outcomes for young children in times of change. Our writers stress that how we interact with children and the experiences we create for them, or help them construct, largely determine how they view themselves and their world, and how they grow as learners and doers.

As 2013 rolls on we’re into the second year of the National Quality Framework and many centres have participated in the assessment process. Happily, there is lots of good support around to help with this and processes are becoming more streamlined as we all gain experience.

And it’s an election year! With an election date confirmed we should become aware of the important, big-picture issues around early childhood education and care. Already emerging are the related issues of costs for families, salaries for educators and the very serious problem of shortages of places in many areas, especially for the under-twos. Our roles as advocates for children and families place us in a very special position to make a contribution to debate and lobbying in this election year.

Alison Elliott

If you would like to help those affected by the recent floods, the Queensland Government has established the Queensland Floods Appeal 2013 in partnership with the Australian Red Cross. Donations can be made by visiting or by calling 1800 811 700.

Don’t forget, Every Child is tax deductible for early childhood professionals

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