Lisa from Inspire Children’s Nursery shares her tips on how to deal with back to school nerves… from both mama and bub!
If you find your little ones growing faster than the speed of light, heart leaping at all the back-to-school signs in stores and a serious case of the weepies coming on every time you think of your baby spreading his or her wings, you’re not alone, mamas. We’ve all had to face that emotional moment (or day, or week) when it’s time for bub to go to nursery or school for the first time!
Whether you’re heading back to work and dropping off your wee three-month-old, or settling in your older toddler in preparation for big school next year, we’ve teamed up with the early years specialists at Inspire Children’s Nursery (a Sassy fav!) to put together a guide that will help navigate the nerves for a positive experience during this important transition! Lisa Lewis, Nursery Manager and long time parent consultant, shares:
Your emotions matter
Starting a new nursery or school is daunting for everyone, for small little babies, toddlers, preschoolers, primary, high school right into adulthood, so really a transition like this is experienced many times during our life time. It is how adults respond and react to such transitions that can help our little treasures navigate the path of change in a positive and empathetic way, helping develop a child’s social and emotional resilience for future life transitions (no pressure, mamas!)
All children have different temperaments that can determine how well a child settles. Some are very confident and enter the class as if they have always been there, others can be clingy and apprehensive, taking longer to settle, others can enter and be oblivious if their mum or dad are there or not, cue upset parents here!
Other factors also come to play: children may have been left with familiar family or friends, attended play dates, or attended another setting previously. For some children, they may never have been left or maybe English is not their first language, which can easily heighten anxieties. Some children may be completely nonplussed and happy to leave their parents.
Expect the unexpected
Parents are equally anxious of how their child will adapt to the new change. How will they be received? How will staff help?
The preconceived notion is that those first few days of settling-in will be calm, children quietly exploring toys, parents happy smiling but secretly apprehensive. In reality, parents are waiting for cues from the teacher to leave, teachers waiting for cues from the parents that they are comfortable to leave. Staff have to be an octopus with arms around as many children as can be to comfort them as their parents come in and out of the class. Children also feed off each other’s heightened emotions!
So how can we avoid the drama, mamas?
Ask your nursery detailed questions about their settling in process during the initial tour, and select the one that offers you the most flexibility. At Inspire, for example, we foster a flexible and unlimited approach to settling in children. We like to get to know our families closely, understand their routines, how the individual child settles, what are his or her likes and dislikes. Having open lines of communication and staff guiding parents through the separation can ensure both parties are working together for the child. It’s important to take steps to ensure that new children are able to form a relationship with, and learn to trust, an alternate caregiver (teacher) at the nursery, get familiar with the environment as well as form relationships with other children in the class. The key is for your child to feel safe and secure, apart from knowing that mum or dad will indeed come back for them.
Time for Success
Build in enough time to help your child settle. If you will be starting work soon, enroll your child a few weeks in advance so that you can help them ease in without the added pressure of returning to a new working environment. Parents are advised to stay with their child on the first day for 1-2 hours and gradually over the next few days, plan short visits without mum or dad, building up from one hour till the desired pick up time. Every child will settle at his or her pace, though a week is usually long enough to achieve this.
Your nursery should allow you to call or email as many times during the day as you need to check on your child’s welfare, and share photos of the day’s activities, so you can see how your child is doing.
The Crying Game
What if my child cries when I leave?
Steel your heart mamas, it is very common for your child to cry when you leave and it is most heartbreaking to experience. However, please rest assured that your child is crying because you are leaving and not because they are unhappy with nursery. Most often your child will settle once you are out of sight and they are being distracted with an array of toys and cuddles.
Many of our parents wait in reception and, after a while, take a sneak peek to see their child is busy with activities or calmed with a staff member.
Our rule of thumb is to wait about 20 minutes, if your child is still inconsolable, the session should be cut short for the day. The following day make the separation a little longer, until gradually the child settles.
Settling in provides a welcome opportunity to familiarise your child with the nursery whilst in your presence, which gives them confidence that it is a good place to be and shows them you’re comfortable with the staff.
If possible arrive a little earlier if you or your child feel anxious. It is much better to settle a child when it is quieter and you won’t feel rushed / pressured to settle your child whilst others are crying.
A quick goodbye always works best than a prolonged lengthy farewell. Try not to return as this confuses the child as to whether you’re going or not and creates more upset.
Always say goodbye – often ‘sneaking’ away can do more damage than good. We certainly wouldn’t like it if our loved one left without saying goodbye, imagine it ten times worse for a child.
A goodbye routine can help such as a kiss, bear hug and goodbye. It is also best to say when you will pick them up, such as ‘after lunch’ or ‘after sleep’.
This feels like an eternity, how long will it take?
Settling can take time and many parents ask me “How long before my child settles?” There is no hard and fast rule, but expect it to take at most 6 weeks before any kind of normality returns for your child. As previously stated, all children are different, so patience and an individualised approach will lead to success!
What can you do at home to prepare your little one?
- A wonderful book to read: ‘Going to school’ by Usborne Books is a lovely read to help children understand what to expect and prepare them for a new adventure.
- Choose a lunchbox whilst out shopping and a favourite water bottle.
- Frequently talk about the exciting activities your child may do whilst at nursery school, doing so will create familiarity.
- Establishing a regular routine will help children transition to nursery. Children thrive on routine that provided consistency and predictability. It is beneficial for children to develop good sleep habits to increase concentration, regulate emotions, and build their immunity.
- Allowing children to become independent learners in the home will develop high self esteem, confidence, language skills, physical and active learning. Allow them to tidy away toys, brush their teeth, dress themselves, laying the table for dinner. All of these will contribute to valuable life skills.