Patty Jauregui, center director at the Chula Vista KinderCare, understands the importance of building strong relationships with all of her families, but she also knows that for her military families in this San Diego suburb, having a strong relationship with teachers and staff at her center means a little bit more. In her four years at the Chula Vista center she’s learned that the more connected she is with her families, the more they’ll open up to her about upcoming transitions in their lives and the more she and her teachers can help parents and their children prepare for and adjust to some of the difficulties of military life.
“We take that extra time to make sure children are ok,” Patty said. “We think of extra projects that include their whole class, but that also take [the child’s] mind off of mommy.”
Patty’s open door policy means she spends a lot of time just listening as parents share their worries and look to her for advice. In turn, she and her staff do what they can to help families prepare for various transitions: be it a parent’s deployment or a family’s relocation to a new base. Recently Patty’s talked to one mother who will be reassigned to Florida about her 5-year-old daughter’s upcoming transition to kindergarten. She’s advised mom to keep her daughter’s routine the same to help her adjust, and researched KinderCare centers near their new home so mom doesn’t need to worry about finding a new center. Patty explained that being in another KinderCare center will provide this girl with a sense of stability: even though she’ll be in a new place, she’ll be in a familiar setting.
Before parents deploy Patty and her teachers make a special card for the parent. They gather photos of the parent’s child and photos of the child’s work and put them in a handmade card that the child’s and his or her classmates sign. The day before deployment Patty gives the card to the parent.
“Just seeing their faces is priceless,” she said. “They often say, ‘I’ll take this with me.’ They say it reassures them that even though they won’t be there, their child is happy and cared for.”
During deployment Patty and her teachers make sure to send frequent email updates with more photos of the child and his or her work and classmates, both to give the deployed parent reassurance that their child is doing well, and to give them a window into center life. Patty says these emails become even more meaningful to families as deployments become longer. She’s also quick to emphasize that this is something she does for all of her families.
“It’s something so normal and small,” she said. “We just take it to the heart.”