Picture the scene. You walk into a busy nursery school and the little hand in yours holds on even tighter. The place is buzzing with new noise and colour. It’s an immense sea of smiling faces, laughter and the hum of activities in full swing. A pair of boisterous boys flies past in chase and you pull your child closer.
Maybe this wasn’t the best idea after all. You search for the exit, but hold it right there! Take it easy and take another look around. You’ve made it this far. It is all easy to forget that as well as the child suffering with separation anxiety that any parent or carer will be feeling the same. And the feeling can be overwhelming; even more so for us first timers. So as a nursery nurse and a first time mum, I have put together a brief survival guide for parents and carers taking those first daunting steps into the unknown.
Practise leaving your child
Before you attempt to leave your child at a nursery school, playgroup or preschool, try to practise leaving your child with a trusted family member, even if only for an hour or so. Not only will this prepare you for how it will feel to leave your child, but it will demonstrate to your child that you will return. This is very important for a child to learn.
Make the time
Okay, so you have chosen where you want your child to go. The establishment has ticked all the boxes of your needs and requirements. Now it’s time for the initiation process. Make time! The more time the better. Don’t try and complete the process the week just before heading back to work, for example. The rush will not do you or your child any good. In fact, the pressure may make the situation additionally distressing and frustrating for all involved.
Explain what is going to happen and why
Honesty is the best policy here, and in my experience, children need to know (simply) why, where, when, and how, in order to feel reassured. Take time to look at books and read stories together about children starting nursery school so you can discuss thoughts and feelings with your child.
Attend free sessions
Try to attend any of the initiation sessions or open days on offer to you. You may even be offered a home visit. This is fantastic way of introducing the new adults into your children’s life: in their own environment where they be more ready and willing to accept new faces. It is also a perfect time for you to discuss any details or ask any questions. You will have their full attention, so utilise it.
Get to know staff
Knowing the staff is important, especially the key worker, if your child is given one. A key worker is an adult assigned to a group of children that will work closely with those children in particular. She should be your first port of call …