Leaving your child at nursery or preschool for the first time is a huge milestone for parents. It’s not one that you’ll be undertaking lightly. You’ll most likely have done hours of research, asked other parents, and visited lots of childcare options. Physically removing yourself from your child on the other hand, can be actually be really hard (no matter how happy you are with your decision).
Depending on the age of your child and your support network, this may be the first time that you’ve been separated from your child. It’s going to take a bit of getting used to. News just in, you may both find it hard.
Cutting the ties (for a few hours)
As children develop, they can experience separation anxiety. This might mean that your baby or toddler cries when you have to say goodbye, or even leave a room. This is completely normal. After all, you’re all they know. Their key worker could be Mary Poppins for all they care; they are not you. They will look new, smell strange, cuddle differently, and things around them will be unknown.
The good news is, that children adapt quickly. It might take a little while, but it won’t take long before they start to get used to it. Just be prepared for those settling in sessions, or initial drop offs to be an emotional roller coaster for a little while though.
Tip: It’s often better to leave without looking back too much. Think of it as ripping the plaster off. If you need to, get back to your car or around a corner and then have a big cry rather than hang around and add to the anxiety.
Nurseries are always happy to receive calls from parents to check in during the day. Perhaps do this after an hour or so to see how they have settled and to reassure yourself.
Remember, it’s a big change for you too
Emotionally, the start of childcare may signal the end of maternity leave and a return to work. No matter how much you love your job, you’ll miss your child in a way you could never imagine. It’s also a nerve racking time to be returning after an extended period of time, especially when you’ve effectively changed identity in the process. Whatever your new routine, try to take the positives rather than think about what you’re missing.
Tip: Try to enjoy your new found freedoms. Perhaps you have a commute when you could listen to some music or a podcast that isn’t Old MacDonald. Enjoy a wee in private. Grab a coffee and sit in silence. Or read more than a page of a magazine or book without interruption.
Be prepared for a collection that’s not what you expected
Children are so stimulated at childcare settings, so you may not get the reaction to pick up that you’re expecting. They may be emotional to see you. Crying when you collect them is a common reaction. It’s almost as if they are trying to trick you into thinking that they’ve been crying all day (how could you have left them?). This is often relief that you’ve returned, and can happen even if they’ve had the best day.
They may be grumpy. Depending on if they still nap or not, they may be exhausted. Don’t be alarmed if they are grumpy and not overly excited to see you. Or they may actually be asleep. Again, this is normal depending on age. It may even be that they’ve slept through their whole first session, if it’s a short one. At least you know they are comfortable there!
They might eat better, or worse
Again, the food can take some getting used to. The good news though, is that kids generally eat better at nursery. They tend to copy their friends, and may eat stuff that they’ve always rejected at home.Likewise, they may take a bit of getting used to, so don’t worry if they haven’t eaten a thing. The staff are professionals, and have probably encountered all sorts of tastes, so they’ll find a way of making it work over time.
A few extra tips:Pack spare clothes (and lots of them!)Call the nursery if you’re worried about anythingMake sure that you take any medication or allergy specific items such as plasters or milkRemember the comforter (maybe even have a spare for nursery in case it gets left)Label clothes, shoes and comfortersTake dummies, and always have a spare in the car and bag in case they go missingOn the whole, nurseries and preschools are hugely positive for young children. They follow an early years curriculum, but they also learn non-educational developments. Nursery puts a bit of space between children and their parents, which is a vital skill that helps with transition towards school. It also teaches them how to socialise out of their normal circles, so they can make friends.
Nursery also means that they can take part in messy play without you needing to clean up your house!