Having a child is very much a journey. A key stage in this journey is the moment when your child goes to nursery, pre-school or a child minder for the first time. If children are carefully prepared they can settle in without much ado. So, what preparation needs to take place? A good starting point is to understand that young children are actually primed to stay close to their parents. From the age of around 8 months onwards until 3 years and older, children react when their parents leave by crying and protesting. In evolutionary terms, it made perfect sense for youngsters to remain near their parents to avoid danger.
In order to prevent your child from becoming distressed when they first leave you, we will work with you to settle your child in. Before your child starts they will be invited to come along for a visit and attend a few sessions. Visiting a few times before actually leaving your child is essential. It allows your child to become familiar with the new surroundings and get to know the staff.
We encourage parents/carers to remain with their child at any time to help them settle in, for as long as it takes.
If your child has a favourite toy or blanket, we are quite happy for this to remain with them. However, when children bring in other items to show to the staff we are very happy to look at them, and talk about them. They will then be put in a safe place alongside the manager’s desk until going home time.
Helping your child
There are several ways in which you can help your child settle in smoothly. First it is important during visits to the setting that you are ready to take a step backwards and allow the staff to build a relationship with your child. Constantly playing alongside your child may mislead them into believing that you will always be there to play. Instead, your child needs to learn that this new place is one where he or she enjoys playing with other children and being with the staff. While it is important that you should stay during the first visits, aim bit by bit to physically distance yourself from your child by, for example, wandering to the edge of the room and picking up a book or talking to another adult.
Taking the cue
Children are programmed to pick up on our reactions. If children notice that we smile and are relaxed in the company of the staff, they will take this as a cue that it is fine to stay. They will also notice and react if we appear anxious and may respond by becoming fearful and clingy. While most parents are naturally a little anxious about how their children will get on, try hard to remain calm and positive as this too will rub off on your child.
Going at different speed
Most parents wonder how quickly they can leave their children. It depends upon the individual child. Children who are used to being left with friends and relatives may be quicker to settle, as they are used to being in the company of other adults. This is not a race, however. The child who settles in gradually but without tears will have learned a valuable lesson that will stand them in good stead when they start school. It can be useful once you start leaving your child to build up the amount of time slowly. You might start by telling the child during an early visit that you want to go to another room for a couple of minutes and then return. If your child copes with that, then you can keep increasing the time.
Finally, a word about sneaking off! This might seem like a good idea, especially if your child is happily playing, but in the longer term it can cause quite a few problems. When children stop playing and notice their parent is no longer there, they can react by becoming increasingly clingy. It also means that in any future situation, instead of settling down to play, children keep a watchful eye on their parents. Aim instead to build a ‘goodbye’ routine so that your child knows you are going, but is confident that you will always come back.
We hope that your child’s time with The Hullbridge Pre-school will be a very happy and productive one. If you have any queries or if we can be of any help, please contact the Pre-school Manager or a member of the parent committee at any time. And remember, should you wish to join our committee and have a say in how your child’s pre-school is run then please speak to a member of the committee or manager.