Relationship Building at Times of Transition

Thursday 22nd August 2019
back to school

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Guest blog from Author, Sonia Mainstone-Cotton

September is a key time for transitions, with children starting school, nursery, pre-school and sometimes childminders. Of course transitions into education settings can happen all year round but September is the time we often think of for new transitions.

I work part-time with 4-year-olds who are starting school, the children I support have social, emotional and mental health needs, so September is a key time of the year for me. There is a growing recognition on the importance of preparing a child for the transition, we know that preparation is key to helping a child in the change. 


Once the move is in place I think there is another key factor in supporting the children and that is around building a relationship. Children need to feel safe, loved and supported in their new setting, this only happens when there is a relationship built between themselves and the Key staff. Part of relationship building is getting to know the child, finding out what excites them, interests them and also what they dislike or feel scared about.

Knowing a child, finding out what makes them happy, enables us to find ways to connect with them. When we start to connect with a child, particularly through something they enjoy, we are giving them the message that we are interested in them, we like them, we want to spend time with them.


I find the best way to connect with a child and find out what they love is by spending time with them, not with a fixed agenda, but just by being with them, playing alongside them, enabling them to take the lead in the play, observing, listening and showing an interest.

A few years ago I was struggling to connect with one of my new children at the start of the year, if I am honest, he was a bit of a puzzle to me. Then one day I sat playing with some animals with him, he asked me which animal I liked, I told him and asked him his favourite animal, he suddenly became animated, his eyes lit up and he told me in a hushed voice, I adore owls, they are the best.

Throughout the rest of the year, we had many conversations about owls, I learned loads from him about owls, where they live, what they eat, how they hunt. Owls were our connection, they became a way of entering his world and they helped me to support him, understand him and build a relationship with him.

I look forward to September, spending time getting to know the new children I will be working with and finding out for each child what the key thing is that brings them joy.

You can find further examples of how we can support children in my books Promoting young children’s emotional health and wellbeing and Listening to young children in early years settings from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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