How to Settle your Child into Nursery
Did you know, that for the first 4-9 months of a baby’s life, they don’t realise that they are a separate person from their mother or main caregiver? Only after this time do they begin to develop a sense of ‘object permanence’— a concept discovered by child psychologist and theorist Jean Piaget. This is an important milestone in babies’ brain development, as before they develop this, objects or people that are not in sight simply cease to exist. Once object permanence has set in, however, that’s when things like the nursery drop-off can begin to get a bit tricky…
For many parents and carers, their child starting nursery is an exciting milestone, though it may also be the first experience of being separated from them for an extended period. Your little one realises you’re going, and they want you back— now. So how do we conquer this? Below, we have listed 5 of our top tips on how to navigate separation anxiety when it comes to beginning nursery, along with some sure-fire ways to stop the tears… The children’s too!
Doing your best to stay calm can go a long way. Your little one will feed off of your emotions, and if you’re calm, positive and upbeat about nursery, they will begin to understand that’s how they should be feeling too. Whilst it’s key that you as a parent stay positive, it's also important to validate your child’s emotions, letting them know that it’s okay to feel sad, as saying goodbye can be tricky. But letting them know that they will be safe, they will have fun and that you will come back for them will give them the reassurance they need when they are feeling uncertain and worried. Why not have a listen to this song, and have a go at learning it yourself… you can even try the Makaton signs!
It’s time to go, I’ll see you soon,
There’s so much that you will do.
You’ll have great fun, you’ll get to play,
And I’ll come back for you today.
You are loved, you are brave,
Now here’s a hug, and here’s a wave.
Integrating this into your morning routine can become a precious time for you and your child.
Before travelling somewhere new, it’s fairly standard for most people who drive to go over their route beforehand. To have a look at the map, to familiarise themselves. Before going to a new restaurant, it’s becoming more and more common practice to read the menu online. For people to get an idea of what they might want to eat, to familiarise themselves. Before going to an interview for a new job, it’s a safe bet for people to read up a bit about the company before they head in. To learn more about them, to familiarise themselves. So dropping off a toddler to a new room in a new building with new people in it and expecting them not to be overwhelmed? It’s a big ask.
That’s where visual aids can come in very handy. Where we use a map, menu or website, a picture of your child’s nursery room and key worker can make a huge difference in their settling process. So at bedtime the night before nursery, and in the morning before you set off, why not try this: “Tomorrow/soon, we are going to nursery, and we are going to see _______ who will play with you and keep you safe until I come to pick you up” alongside showing the pictures, either printed or on a phone/tablet to help them become familiar with new faces and environments. It’s a good idea to speak to your Kindred nursery manager or child’s key worker about this— they will be more than happy to provide you with images you can use to help you and your child. Remember, their best interests are your own, and they want nothing more than for your child to feel safe, happy, and settled in their care.
Home from home
Bringing in an object from home can really aid your child’s transition into nursery, not only due to the familiarity of the item, but in the comfort it brings them. Whether it’s a blanket, a soft toy, a dummy, or even a photograph of yourself or other family members, this can remind your child of you/home which can offer a sense of comfort when they are going through the separation. If your child is still napping, you may find that this is a method that can help with their sleep at nursery also. It would be advised to let your child’s key worker know about this, and to make sure that the item is labelled with your child’s name.
A problem shared…
…is a problem halved, so the famous proverb goes. So do be sure to share how you are feeling— with other parents at nursery, with friends who have slightly older children, even with parents on online forums! No one knows better than someone who has been there, done it, and come out the other side— especially when it’s still relatively fresh in their minds. They may have tips you hadn’t considered or words of wisdom that are just helpful to hear. It’s also imperative to acknowledge that every child is different. Where someone else’s child may have settled in two days, yours may take two weeks… and that’s OK! Children, like adults, all process things differently, and it’s important to bear that in mind, especially when looking for advise from others.
Here at Kindred, our teams of Nursery Practitioners are professional and experienced and they understand, sometimes more than most, what a huge life event starting at nursery is for both babies and their parents. Why not speak to your nursery manager or child’s key person to discuss how they can support you and your child during this transition? There’s strength in numbers, and the more people you have around to help you, the less alone you will feel in your situation. Don’t forget that you are also more than welcome to call the nursery to see how your child is getting on after you have left them. More often than not, you will hear that they were absolutely fine after 5 minutes!
Consistency and Perseverance
It can be tough. We know. When your child is clinging to you, refusing to go inside and sobbing (and it’s getting to the point where you feel like you might too…) it can be tempting to take them out for a breather or even just turn around and go home. In the moment, it might feel like the ‘right’ or ‘natural’ thing to do, but in reality, it can actually deny your child the opportunity to learn how to overcome difficult emotions and face challenges; as well as being a step backwards in getting them to settle. Acknowledge those emotions, keep that smile on your face, and keep going.
In combination with all of the above tips, it’s important to remember that no matter how tough it may seem in the moment, it’s all temporary. If you are consistent and you persevere, then your little one will be running into the nursery with a big smile on their face in no time.
If you are already part of the Kindred Family and have any worries, questions, or just need some reassurance, you can always contact your Nursery Management Team who will be more than happy to help. If you are not yet registered with us, you can use our handy Postcode Search feature to find your closest Kindred Nursery. We'd love for you to join the family!