Updated: Apr 30, 2021
In last week’s post, I discussed how mothers can help themselves cope when it’s time to return to work after maternity leave, and surprisingly got a lot of messages on Instagram about how helpful this was from mothers. Now for the small child involved, this adjustment of being in a new environment with new faces can be overwhelming for them too, often bringing with it many tears.
In this week’s post, I will be sharing ideas on ways you can help your little one settle into a daycare/nursery, a childminder’s, or any regular care from someone other than the parents. Though every child is different, many children can initially get distressed when the time comes to start nursery, as they don’t yet understand why they are being left in a new environment. But hopefully, with these tips, you can help them settle in as easily as possible.
At home play
If you haven’t started already, introducing games that involve you disappearing and reappearing, is a great start to helping your child understand that people can be separated for a short period of time, and then return. A common one is peek-a-boo, hide-and-seek is also a good one if they are a little older. I am not saying that these games will make your child immune to separation anxiety, but by safely getting them to experience mummy going out of sight and coming back can help them in getting used to the idea that mummy can be away for a bit, but always comes back.
Introduce the concept of nurseries
You can also introduce the concept of nurseries to them by reading stories about them to your little one, and emphasising how happy the characters are to be surrounded by other children. Also if possible, walk past a local school and point out how much fun the small people that look like him/her are having, and try to explain to them that they too will be joining in soon. If you have already enrolled with a particular nursery, ask if you can visit a couple of times to help your young one familiarize with the environment, and if they are old enough encourage them to discuss how they found the visit. The point is to try and help get them excited and proud about the prospect of starting nursery.
When it’s safe to do so, organise play dates and/or babysitting arrangements so your little one gets used to being in the company of others and whilst still having a good time. You may need to hang around for the first couple of times, but after a while, head off into another room once your child seems happy. It doesn’t have to be for a whole day, just an hour or two at a time can help make a difference.
Brief your team
Whether it is a relative, a childminder, or a nursery teacher that will be looking after your little one, providing them with as much information as possible about your child can help with the transition. Their likes/dislikes, health concerns that need to be managed, milestones you’re working on (i.e. potty training). By sharing all of this information, you help keep the childcare arrangements as comfortable as possible for your baby, and similar to his/her home routines.
At the point of separation, try to stay calm around your baby. Like a lot of adults, small children can sense when you're upset, which in turn can make them upset as well. If you have to, psyche yourself up for the moment and put a brave face on for the little one. I know seeing them in distress will probably prompt you to want to grab them and take them home, but try to keep your cool. Give your little one a big hug, a couple of kisses, then promise them that you’ll be back. You will probably be able to still hear them screaming once the door is closed (particularly on the first couple of days) but from my experience, professional childcarers are very accommodating and will do whatever it takes to help with this easing-in process.
Allow a comforter
If you feel that your little one will benefit from having a comforter, then take that with him/her to nursery/the childminders. If it can help keep your baby calm, then it's worth trying.
Give it time
With all of this being said, it’s perfectly normal for a child to cry for their parent at the beginning. My daughter cried at every morning drop-off, but after 2 weeks she actually began waving goodbye to me. And once she was able to do so, at the end of the day, she would run into my arms and say “see you soon” to her nursery teachers. As adults, we tend to experience similar nerves when we are in a new setting, but with a bit of time, we eventually calm down, and sometimes that’s all it takes.
With all this being said though, if you're at a point where you believe your child is not taking to the child care, perhaps looking for an alternative option would be best. I strongly believe that like most adults, a child’s personality may not click with a certain adult's, no one’s at fault it just happens and sometimes a different environment is the solution.