Leaving your child at nursery for the first time is stressful, the first weeks when your child is settling in are of crucial importance to their later happiness at nursery, extra care taken before and during this period will minimise difficulties later on and how easily and happily they mix with others. Working together with your chosen nursery can make this difficult time become a very positive experience for everyone.
Starting nursery is the beginning of a new and exciting stage in your child's life. But it's also the end of an era, so feelings of sadness and anxiety are inevitable.
When you've been by your baby's side every waking moment from the second they were born – holding them, guiding them, comforting them, playing with them – it's hardly surprising that watching them disappear into a room of virtual strangers is enough to fill even the most confident parent with questions and doubts.
What if he cries inconsolably when you leave him? How is she going to cope without you? What if the other children are mean? What if the staff forget to give him his dummy at nap time? What if she cries and nobody cuddles her?
While these anxieties are completely natural, it's also worth remembering that babies are far more resilient than they appear. In fact, there's a good chance your little one is coping better with the transition than you are.
When it comes to preparing your toddler for their first day at nursery, every parent is different. The most stressed parent one person told us about took two weeks' leave to go with her child to nursery while he settled in. Unfortunately, this was a pointless exercise because having her there meant it was no different for her child than being at home! Basically she was just prolonging the inevitable!
Even adults get shy around new people in new places, so just imagine how scary it is for a toddler going into a strange nursery. That's why you should familiarise them with the place they’re going to be hanging out as soon as possible. Short settling in visits will help your child get to know the nursery as well as the staff who will be looking after them.
The more information you give the staff, the better time your child will have. Tell them their likes, dislikes, what foods they eat, when they tend to sleep, anything that frightens them and how far through potty training they are. Get to know your child’s key worker and build up a rapport with them; if you’re happy and at ease with them this will transfer to your child.
Talk about nursery in positive terms, as something exciting and enjoyable, even if your school days weren't exactly the best of your life. But don't belittle any fears your child may have. Tell your toddler upbeat stories about your own days at nursery and school - the fun sports you played, the friends you made, the songs you sang.
No matter how torn up you're feeling about your toddler taking their first fledgling steps outside the nest, you mustn't show it to them. If they see you crying or fretting, you'll make them uneasy about the whole nursery experience.
When it's time for you to say goodbye, explain carefully that you're about to go and you'll be back to pick them up when nursery is over. Don't start to leave and then get drawn back by tears and a trembling lip. Children usually cry because you are leaving and not because they are unhappy about being at nursery. In the majority of cases, once the 'goodbye' part is over, a child will quickly settle into an activity or cuddle with a member of staff. If your child doesn’t settle and remains upset for a length of time after you’ve gone, the nursery will ring you – no news is good news!
Put your child in clothes that are easy for her to pull on and off, especially if they’re newly toilet trained. Shoes with Velcro fastening will make them feel more independent, as they won't need to ask for help tying the laces.
It's simple... make friends with mums who have kids of a similar age to your child and suddenly they’ll have instant friends and a social life. So keep an eye out on day one and don't be shy about introducing yourself.
If your child has a particular favourite toy or blankie they want to take with them to help them settle in, it doesn't hurt at first it helps to make nursery feel like a home from home.
If your toddler doesn't know many children in their new setting, see if you can arrange to get together with some other parents before they start or not long after.
Remember that this it is a new chapter in both your lives and you may get upset to start with, but your child will soon settle into nursery life, and enjoy themselves playing with new activities and friends that they will be eager to tell you all about when you collect them!