Whether its your third time round or a precious eldest child, the transition to nursery is often an emotional experience for both child and parent. Working a s a nursery and reception teacher there were numerous occasions I would comfort a weeping parent as an even more hysterical toddler was peeled away from their mothers arm’s with a scream that could shatter glass! In the position of teacher, I was totally confident that within the next few weeks that child would be happily walking into the classroom with a quick hug and barely a backward look.
Often within ten minutes of a parent leaving the room the majority of unsettled children were happily engaged with an activity and they would only start crying again at the end of the session on seeing a parent came back for collection. We would often send photos to parents of their children happy and engaged to prove that once separated they quickly settled into the nursery day and that often the continued presence of a beloved parent did more harm then good in the settling in process.
Having recently settled my eldest son into his first nursery experience I saw the whole thing from the other side and sympathized deeply with the feeling of helplessness you experience seeing your child struggling with separation. It is often the first time a child has been away from a family member or familiar adult but if handled calmly and confidently this needed be the tear soaked experience many parents endure.
Ways a nursery can support this transition
- Many outstanding nursery environments make an effort to do home visits before a child starts in the school. This is an incredibly helpful tool as it allows teachers and key workers to see the child’s home environment and to already build a bond by seeing special toys and people connected to the child.
- Nurseries that use their key workers effectively can greatly lessen the trauma of parental separation. The purpose of a key worker is for parents and children to have a special point of contact within the busy classroom environment. Most key workers will have between 6 and 15 children they look out for and this allows for a greater connection with families and the individual child and another valuable point of contact if the class teacher is busy or unavailable.
- Sensitive settling in procedures can also have a very positive impact. With very little ones starting nursery keeping the first few visits short and slowly building up to the full session can make all the difference.
Ways parents can support the transition
- Giving children clear guidelines to when they will be picked up and then ensuring that is stuck to will give them the security to know that mummy will be back when she says she will. For example “mummy is going to have a cup of coffee and after you have your snack/ tidy up/ play I will be back to pick you up.”
- Bringing a special toy, comforter, book into nursery as a tool that the staff can use to settle an unhappy child and give them something familiar and comforting to focus on.
- If your child’s speech is still relatively undecipherable and unclear then give staff information on any key phrases or words your child may use so they know what children are saying, for example your child’s words for water, loo, granny, coat etc.
- Ask the nursery for the name and photo of your child’s class teacher/key worker before you start nursery. I used this with my son over the Christmas holidays so that he recognized his key worker on his first day and knew how to say her name.